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Copyright^ i8pp 
By Smalls Maynard & Company 


Entered at Stationers' Hall 

Press of 
George H. Ellis, Boston, U.S. A 

The photogravure used as a frontispiece 
to this volume is from a photograph by J. H. 
Kent, Rochester, New York, one of the 
last taken of Mr. Douglass. It is the por- 
trait most highly thought of by his family, 
by whose permission it is used. The pres- 
ent engraving is by John Andrew & Son, 


Frederick Douglass lived so long, and 
played so conspicuous a part on the world) s 
stage, that it would be impossible, in a work 
of the size of this, to do more than touch 
upon the salient features of his career, to 
suggest the respects in which he influenced 
the course of events in his lifetime, and to 
epitomize for the readers of another genera- 
tion the judgment of his contemporaries as 
to his genius and his character. 

Douglass's fame as an orator has long 
been secure. His position as the champion 
of an oppressed race, and at the same time 
an example of its possibilities, was, in his 
own generation, as picturesque as it was 
unique; and his life may serve for all time 
as an incentive to aspiring souls tvho 
would fight the battles and win the love of 
mankind. The average American of to-day 
tvho sees, when his attention is called to it, 
and deplores, if he be a thoughtful and just 
man, the deep undertow of race prejudice 


that retards the progress of the colored 
people of our own generation, cannot, except 
by reading the painful records of the past, 
conceive of the mental and spiritual darkness 
to which slavery, as the inexorable condition 
of its existence, condemned its victims and, 
in a less measure, their oppressors, or of the 
blank wall of proscription and scorn by 
which free people of color were shut up in 
a moral and social Ghetto, the gates of which 
have yet not been entirely torn down. 

From this night of slavery Douglass 
emerged, passed through the Umbo of preju- 
dice which he encountered as a freeman, and 
took his place in history. u As few of tlie 
world 7 s great men have ever had so clxeck- 
ered and diversified a career," says Henry 
Wilson, u so it may at least be plausibly 
claimed that no man represents in himself 
more conflicting ideas and interests. His 
life is, in itself, an epic which fiyids few to 
equal it in the realms of either romance or 
reality." It was, after all, no misfortune 
for humanity that Frederick Douglass felt 


the iron hand of slavery ; for his genius 
changed the drawbacks of color and condi- 
tion into levers by which he raised himself 
and his people. 

The materials * for this work have been 
near at hand, though there is a vast amount 
of which lack of space must prevent the use. 
Acknowledgment is here made to members 
of the Douglass family for aid in securing 
the photograph from which the frontispiece 
is reproduced. 

The more the writer has studied the rec- 
ords of Douglass 1 s life, the more it has ap- 
pealed to his imagination and his heart. 
Re can claim no special qualification for 
this task, unless perhaps it be a profound 
and in some degree a personal sympathy 
with every step of Douglass's upward career. 
Belonging to a later generation, he was only 
privileged to see the man and hear the orator 
after his life-work was substantially com- 
pleted, but often enough then to appreciate 
something of the strength and eloquence 
by which he impressed his contemporaries. 


If by this brief slcetch the writer can revive 
among the readers of another generation a 
tithe of the interest that Douglass created 
for himself when he led the forlorn hope of 
his race for freedom and opportunity, his 
labor will be amply repaid. 

Cleveland, October, 1899. 


Frederick Douglass was born at Tucka- 
hoe, near Easton, Talbot County, Mary- 


Was sent to Baltimore to live with a 
relative of his master. 

March. Was taken to St. Michael's, 
Maryland, to live again with his master. 

January. Was sent to live with Edward 
Covey, slave-breaker, with whom he 
spent the year. 

Hired to William Freeland. Made an 
unsuccessful attempt to escape from slav- 
ery. Was sent to Baltimore to learn the 
ship-calker ? s trade. 

May. Hired his own time and worked at 
his trade. 


1838 (continued) 
September 3. Escaped from slavery and 
went to New York City. Married Miss 
Anna Murray. Went to New Bedford, 
Massachusetts. Assumed the name of 

Attended anti - slavery convention at 
New Bedford and addressed the meeting. 
Was employed as agent of the Massachu- 
setts Anti-slavery Society. 

Took part in Bhode Island campaign 
against the Dorr constitution. Lectured 
on slavery. Moved to Lynn, Massachu- 

Took part in the famous "One Hundred 
Conventions ? ? of the New England Anti- 
slavery Society. 

Lectured with Pillsbury, Foster, and 


Published Frederick Douglass's Narrative. 

Visited Great Britain and Ireland. Ee- 
mained in Europe two years, lecturing 
on slavery and other subjects. Was 
presented by English friends with money 
to purchase his freedom and to establish 
a newspaper. 


Eeturned to the United States. Moved 
with his family to Eochester, New York. 
Established the North Sta?*, subsequently 
renamed Frederick Douglass's Paper. 
Visited John Brown at Springfield, 


Lectured on slavery and woman suffrage. 

Edited newspaper. Lectured against 
slavery. Assisted the escape of fugitive 

May 7. Attended meeting of Anti- 


slavery Society at New York City. 

Eunning debate with Captain Eynders. 

Supported the Free Soil party. Elected 
delegate from Eochester to Free Soil con- 
vention at Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. 
Supported John P. Hale for the Presi- 

Visited Harriet Beecher Stowe at An- 
dover, Massachusetts, with reference to 
industrial school for colored youth. 

Opposed repeal of Missouri Compromise. 
June 12. Delivered commencement ad- 
dress at Western Eeserve College, Hud- 
son, Ohio. 


Published My Bondage and my Freedom. 
March. Addressed the New York legis- 


Supported Fremont, candidate of the 
Eepublican party. 


Established Douglass's Monthly. 
Entertained John Brown at Bochester. 

August 20. Visited John Brown at 
Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. 
May 12. Went to Canada to avoid ar- 
rest for alleged complicity in the John 
Brown raid. 

November 12. Sailed from Quebec for 

Lectured and spoke in England and 
Scotland for six months. 

Eeturned to the United States. Sup- 
ported Lincoln for the Presidency. 

Lectured and spoke in favor of the war 
and against slavery. 

Assisted in recruiting Fifty-fourth and 
Fifty-fifth Massachusetts colored regi- 
ments. Invited to visit President Lin- 


Supported Lincoln for re-election. 

Was active in procuring the franchise 
for the freedmen. 

September. Elected delegate from Roches- 
ter to National Loyalists' Convention at 



Moved to Washington, District of Co- 
lumbia. Established the New National 



Appointed secretary of the Santo Do- 
mingo Commission by President Grant. 

Appointed councillor of the District of 
Columbia. Elected presidential elector of 
the State of New York, and chosen by 
the electoral college to take the vote to 

Delivered address at unveiling of Lincoln 
statue at Washington. 


Appointed Marshal of the District of 
Columbia by President Hayes. 

Visited his old home in Maryland and 
met his old master. 

Bust of Douglass placed in Sibley Hall, 
of Eochester University. Spoke against 
the proposed negro exodus from the 

Appointed recorder of deeds for the 
District of Columbia. 

January. Published Life and Times of 
Frederick Douglass, the third and last of 
his autobiographies. 
August 4. Mrs. Frederick Douglass died. 

February 6. Attended funeral of Wendell 

February 9. Attended memorial meeting 
and delivered eulogy on Phillips. 


1884 (continued) 
Married Miss Helen Pitts. 

May 20. Lectured on John Brown at 
Music Hall, Boston. 

September 11. Attended a dinner given 
in his honor by the Wendell Phillips 
Club, Boston. 
September. Sailed for Europe. 

Visited Great Britain, France, Italy, 
Greece, and Egypt. 

Made a tour of the Southern States. 

Appointed United States minister resi- 
dent and consul-general to the Eepublic 
of Hayti and charge d'affaires to Santo 



September 22. Addressed abolition re- 
union at Boston. 


Eesigned the office of minister to Hayti. 


Acted as commissioner for Hayti at 
World's Columbian Exposition. 

February 20. Frederick Douglass died at 
his home on Anacostia Heights, near 
Washington, District of Columbia. 



If it be no small task for a man of tlie 
most favored antecedents and the most 
fortunate surroundings to rise above 
mediocrity in a great nation, it is surely 
a more remarkable achievement for a 
man of the very humblest origin possible 
to humanity in any country in any age 
of the world, in the face of obstacles 
seemingly insurmountable, to win high 
honors and rewards, to retain for more 
than a generation the respect of good 
men in many lands, and to be deemed 
worthy of enrolment among his coun- 
try's great men. Such a man was Fred- 
erick Douglass, and the example of one 
who thus rose to eminence by sheer force 
of character and talents that neither 
slavery nor caste proscription could 
crush must ever remain as a shining 
illustration of the essential superiority 
of manhood to environment. Circum- 


stances made Frederick Douglass a slave, 
but they could not prevent him from be- 
coming a freeman and a leader among 

The early life of Douglass, as detailed 
by himself from the platform in vigor- 
ous and eloquent speech, and as recorded 
in the three volumes written by himself 
at different periods of his career, is per- 
haps the completest indictment of the 
slave system ever presented at the bar 
of public opinion. Fanny Kemble's 
Journal of a Residence on a Georgian 
Plantation, kept by her in the very year 
of Douglass's escape from bondage, but 
not published until 1863, too late to con- 
tribute anything to the downfall of slav- 
ery, is a singularly clear revelation of 
plantation life from the standpoint of an 
outsider entirely unbiassed by American 
prejudice. Frederick Douglass's Narra- 
tive is the same story told from the in- 
side. They coincide in the main facts ; 
and in the matter of detail, like the two 

slightly differing views of a stereoscopic 
picture, they bring out into bold relief 
the real character of the peculiar insti- 
tution. Uncle Tom's Cabin lent to the 
structure of fact the decorations of 
humor, a dramatic plot, and characters 
to whose fate the touch of creative 
genius gave a living interest. But, after 
all, it was not Uncle Tom, nor Topsy, 
nor Miss Ophelia, nor Eliza, nor little 
Eva that made the book the power it 
proved to stir the hearts of men, but the 
great underlying tragedy then already 
rapidly approaching a bloody climax. 

Frederick Douglass was born in Feb- 
ruary, 1817, — as nearly as the date could 
be determined in after years, when it 
became a matter of public interest, — at 
Tuckahoe, near Easton, Talbot County, 
on the eastern shore of Maryland, a bar- 
ren and poverty-stricken district, which 
possesses in the birth of Douglass its sole 
title to distinction. His mother was a 
negro slave, tall, erect, and well-propor- 


tioned, of a deep black and glossy 
complexion, with regular features, and 
manners of a natural dignity and sedate- 
ness. Though, a field hand and com- 
pelled to toil many hours a day, she had 
in some mysterious way learned to read, 
being the only person of color in Tucka- 
hoe, slave or free, who possessed that ac- 
complishment. His father was a white 
man. It was in the nature of things 
that in after years attempts should be 
made to analyze the sources of Douglass's 
talent, and that the question should be 
raised whether he owed it to the black 
or the white half of his mixed ancestry. 
But Douglass himself, who knew his own 
mother and grandmother, ascribed such 
powers as he possessed to the negro half 
of his blood j and, as to it certainly he 
owed the experience which gave his 
anti-slavery work its peculiar distinction 
and value, he doubtless believed it only 
fair that the credit for what he accom- 
plished should go to those who needed it 

most and could justly be proud of it. 
He never knew with certainty who his 
white father was, for the exigencies of 
slavery separated the boy from his mother 
before the subject of his paternity be- 
came of interest to him; and in after 
years his white father never claimed the 
honor, which might have given him a 
place in history. 

Douglass's earliest recollections cen- 
tred around the cabin of his grand- 
mother, Betsey Bailey, who seems to 
have been something of a privileged 
character on the plantation, being per- 
mitted to live with her husband, Isaac, 
in a cabin of their own, charged with 
only the relatively light duty of looking 
after a number of young children, mostly 
the offspring of her own five daughters, 
and providing for her own support. 

It is impossible in a work of the scope 
of this to go into very elaborate detail 
with reference to this period of Doug- 
lass's life, however interesting it might 


be. The real importance of his life to 
us of another generation lies in what he 
accomplished toward the world's prog- 
ress, which he only began to influence 
several years after his escape from slav- 
ery. Enough ought to be stated, how- 
ever, to trace his development from 
slave to freeman, and his preparation 
for the platform where he secured his 
hearing and earned his fame. 

Douglass was born the slave of one 
Captain Aaron Anthony, a man of some 
consequence in eastern Maryland, the 
manager or chief clerk of one Colonel 
Lloyd, the head for that generation of 
an old, exceedingly wealthy, and highly 
honored family in Maryland, the pos- 
sessor of a stately mansion and one of 
the largest and most fertile plantations 
in the State. Captain Anthony, though 
only the satellite of this great man, him- 
self owned several farms and a number 
of slaves. At the age of seven Douglass 
was taken from the cabin of his grand- 

mother at Tuckahoe to his master's resi- 
dence on Colonel Lloyd's plantation. 

Up to this time he had never, to his 
recollection, seen his mother. All his 
impressions of her were derived from a 
few brief visits made to him at Colonel 
Lloyd's plantation, most of them at 
night. These fleeting visits of the 
mother were important events in the 
life of the child, now no longer under 
the care of his grandmother, but turned 
over to the tender mercies of his mas- 
ter's cook, with whom he does not seem 
to have been a favorite. His mother 
died when he was eight or nine years 
old. Her son did not see her during 
her illness, nor learn of it until after her 
death. It was always a matter of grief 
to him that he did not know her better, 
and that he could not was one of the 
sins of slavery that he never forgave. 

On Colonel Lloyd's plantation Doug- 
lass spent four years of the slave life of 
which his graphic description on the 


platform stirred humane hearts to right- 
eous judgment of an unrighteous institu- 
tion. It is enough to say that this lad, 
with keen eyes and susceptible feelings, 
was an eye-witness of all the evils to 
which slavery gave birth. Its extremes 
of luxury and misery could be found 
within the limits of one estate. He saw 
the field hand driven forth at dawn to 
labor until dark. He beheld every nat- 
ural affection crushed when inconsistent 
with slavery, or warped and distorted 
to fit the necessities and promote the in- 
terests of the institution. He heard the 
unmerited strokes of the lash on the 
backs of others, and felt them on his 
own. In the wild songs of the slaves he 
read, beneath their senseless jargon or 
their fulsome praise of "old master/ 7 
the often unconscious note of grief and 
despair. He perceived, too, the debas- 
ing effects of slavery upon master and 
slave alike, crushing all semblance of 
manhood in the one, and in the other 

substituting passion for judgment, ca- 
price for justice, and indolence and 
effeminacy for the more virile virtues 
of freemen. Doubtless the gentle hand 
of time will some time spread the veil of 
silence over this painful past ; but, while 
we are still gathering its evil aftermath, 
it is well enough that we do not forget 
the origin of so many of our civic prob- 

When Douglass was ten years old, he 
was sent from the Lloyd plantation to 
Baltimore, to live with one Hugh Auld, 
a relative of his master. Here he en- 
joyed the high privilege, for a slave, of 
living in the house with his master's 
family. In the capacity of house boy 
it was his duty to run errands and take 
care of a little white boy, Tommy Auld, 
the son of his mistress for the time being, 
Mrs. Sophia Auld. Mrs. Auld was of 
a religious turn of mind ; and, from 
hearing her reading the Bible aloud fre- 
quently, curiosity prompted the boy to 

ask her to teach him to read. She com- 
plied, and found him an apt pupil, until 
her husband learned of her unlawful and 
dangerous conduct, and put an end to 
the instruction. But the evil was al- 
ready done, and the seed thus sown 
brought forth fruit in the after career 
of the orator and leader of men. The 
mere fact that his master wished to pre- 
vent his learning made him all the more 
eager to acquire knowledge. In after 
years, even when most bitter in his de- 
nunciation of the palpable evils of slav- 
ery, Douglass always acknowledged the 
debt he owed to this good lady who in- 
nocently broke the laws and at the same 
time broke the chains that held a mind 
in bondage. 

Douglass lived in the family of Hugh 
Auld at Baltimore for seven years. 
During this time the achievement that 
had the greatest influence upon his fut- 
ure was his learning to read and write. 
His mistress had given him a start. His 


own efforts gained the rest. He carried 
in his pocket a bine-backed Webster 7 s 
Spelling Book, and, as occasion offered, 
induced his young white playmates, by 
the bribes of childhood, to give him les- 
sons in spelling. When he was about 
thirteen, he began to feel deeply the 
moral yoke of slavery and to seek for 
knowledge of the means to escape it. 
One book seems to have had a marked 
influence upon his life at this epoch. 
He obtained, somehow, a copy of The Co- 
lumbian Orator, containing some of the 
choicest masterpieces of English oratory, 
in which he saw liberty praised and op- 
pression condemned ; and the glowing 
periods of Pitt and Fox and Sheridan 
and our own Patrick Henry stirred 
to life in the heart of this slave boy 
the genius for oratory which did hot 
burst forth until years afterward. The 
worldly wisdom of denying to slaves the 
key to knowledge is apparent when it is 
said that Douglass first learned from a 

newspaper that there were such people as 
abolitionists, who were opposed to human 
bondage and sought to make all men free. 
At about this same period Douglass's 
mind fell under religious influences. He 
was converted, professed faith in Jesus 
Christ, and began to read the Bible. 
He had dreamed of liberty before : he 
now prayed for it, and trusted in God. 
But, with the shrewd common sense which 
marked his whole life and saved it from 
shipwreck in more than one instance, he 
never forgot that God helps them that 
help themselves, and so never missed an 
opportunity to acquire the knowledge 
that would prepare him for freedom 
and give him the means of escape from 

Douglass had learned to read, partly 
from childish curiosity and the desire 
to be able to do what others around him 
did ; but it was with a definite end in 
view that he learned to write. By the 
slave code it was unlawful for a slave to 


go beyond the limits of his own neigh- 
borhood without the written permission 
of his master. Douglass's desire to write 
grew mainly out of the fact that in 
order to escape from bondage, which he 
had early determined to do, he would 
probably need such a "pass," as this 
written permission was termed, and 
could write it himself if he but knew 
how. His master for the time being 
kept a ship-yard, and in this and neigh- 
boring establishments of the same kind 
the boy spent much of his time. He 
noticed that the carpenters, after dress- 
ing pieces of timber, marked them with 
certain letters to indicate their positions 
in the vessel. By asking questions of 
the workmen he learned the names of 
these letters and their significance. He 
got up writing matches with sticks upon 
the ground with the little white boys, 
copied the italics in his spelling-book, 
and in the secrecy of the attic filled up 
all the blank spaces of his young mas- 

ter ? s old copy-books. In time he learned 
to write, and thus again demonstrated 
the power of the mind to overleap the 
bounds that men set for it and work out 
the destiny to which God designs it. 


It was the curious fate of Douglass to 
pass through almost every phase of 
slavery, as though to prepare him the 
more thoroughly for his future career. 
Shortly after he went to Baltimore, his 
master, Captain Anthony, died intestate, 
and his property was divided between 
his two children. Douglass, with the 
other slaves, was part of the personal 
estate, and was sent for to be appraised 
and disposed of in the division. He fell 
to the share of Mrs. Lucretia Auld, his 
master's daughter, who sent him back to 
Baltimore, where, after a month's ab- 
sence, he resumed his life in the house- 
hold of Mrs. Hugh Auld, the sister-in- 
law of his legal mistress. Owing to a 
family misunderstanding, he was taken, 
in March, 1833, from Baltimore back to 
St. Michael's. 

His mistress, Lucretia Auld, had died 
in the mean time ; and the new house- 

hold in which he found himself, witi 
Thomas Auld and his second wife, Eotv 
ena, at its head, was distinctly ies 
favorable to the slave boy's comfoi 
than the home where he had lived i 
Baltimore. Here he saw hardships o; 
the life in bondage that had been les 
apparent in a large city. It is to h 
feared that Douglass was not the idea 
slave, governed by the meek and lowl; 
spirit of Uncle Tom. He seems, by hi 
own showing, to have manifested bu 
little appreciation of the wise oversight 
the thoughtful care, and the freedoi 
from responsibility with which slaver 
claimed to hedge round its victims, am 
he was inclined to spurn the rod rathe 
than to kiss it. A tendency to insubor 
dination, due partly to the freer life to 
had led in Baltimore, got him into dis 
favor with a master easily displeased 
and, not proving sufficiently amenabJ 
to the discipline of the home plantation 
he was sent to a certain celebrated negro 

breaker by the name of Edward Covey, 
me of the poorer whites who, as over- 
seers and slave- catchers, and in similar 
msavory capacities, earned a living as 
parasites on the system of slavery. 
Douglass spent a year under Covey's 
ministrations, and his life there may be 
summed up in his own words : ' "I had 
neither sufficient time in which to eat 
or to sleep, except on Sundays. The 
overwork and the brutal chastisements 
of which I was the victim, combined 
with that ever-gnawing and soul-de- 
stroying thought, 'I am a slave, — a 
slave for life,' rendered me a living 
embodiment of mental and physical 

But even all this did not entirely crush 
the indomitable spirit of a man destined 
to achieve his own freedom and there- 
after to help win freedom for a race. In 
August, 1834, after a particularly atro- 
cious beating, which left him wounded 
and weak from loss of blood, Douglass 


escaped the vigilance of the slave-breaker 
and made his way back to his own mas- 
ter to seek protection. The master, who 
would have lost his slave's wages for a 
year if he had broken the contract with 
Covey before the year's end, sent Doug- 
lass back to his taskmaster. Anticipat- 
ing the most direful consequences, Doug- 
lass made the desperate resolution to 
resist any further punishment at Covey's 
hands. After a fight of two hours 
Covey gave up his attempt to whip 
Frederick, and thenceforth laid hands 
on him no more. That Covey did not 
invoke the law, which made death the 
punishment of the slave who resisted 
his master, was probably due to shame 
at having been worsted by a negro boy, 
or to the prudent consideration that 
there was no profit to be derived from a 
dead negro. Strength of character, re- 
enforced by strength of muscle, thus won 
a victory over brute force that secured 
for Douglass comparative immunity from 


abuse during the remaining months of 
his year's service with Covey. 

The next year, 1835, Douglass was 
hired out to a Mr. William Freeland, 
who lived near St. Michael's, a gentle- 
man who did not forget justice or hu- 
manity, so far as they were consistent 
with slavery, even in dealing with bond- 
servants. Here Douglass led a compara- 
tively comfortable life. He had enough 
to eat, was not overworked, and found 
the time to conduct a surreptitious Sun- 
day-school, where he tried to help others 
by teaching his fellow-slaves to read the 


The manner of Douglass's escape from 
Maryland was never publicly disclosed 
by him until the war had made slavery 
a memory and the slave- catcher a thing 
of the past. It was the theory of the 
anti-slavery workers of the time that 
the publication of the details of es- 
capes or rescues from bondage seldom 
reached the ears of those who might 
have learned thereby to do likewise, but 
merely furnished the master class with 
information that would render other es- 
capes more difficult and bring suspicion 
or punishment upon those who had as- 
sisted fugitives. That this was no idle 
fear there is abundant testimony in the 
annals of the period. But in later years, 
when there was no longer any danger of 
unpleasant consequences, and when it 
had become an honor rather than a dis- 
grace to have assisted a distressed runa- 
way, Douglass published in detail the 


story of his flight. It would not com- 
pare in dramatic interest with many 
other celebrated escapes from slavery or 
imprisonment. He simply masqueraded 
as a sailor, borrowed a sailor's " pro- 
tection/' or certificate that he belonged 
to the navy, took the train in Baltimore 
in the evening, and rode in the negro 
car until he reached New York City. 
There were many anxious moments dur- 
ing this journey. The u protection" he 
carried described a man somewhat dif- 
ferent from him, but the conductor did 
not examine it carefully. Fear clutched 
at the fugitive's heart whenever he 
neared a State border line. He saw 
several persons whom he knew ; but, if 
they recognized him or suspected his 
purpose, they made no sign. A little 
boldness, a little address, and a great 
deal of good luck carried him safely to 
his journey's end. 

Douglass arrived in New York on 
September 4, 1838, having attained only 


a few months before what would have 
been in a freeman his legal major- 
ity. But, though landed in a free State, 
he was by no means a free man. He 
was still a piece of property, and could 
be reclaimed by the law's aid if his 
whereabouts were discovered. While 
local sentiment at the North afforded a 
measure of protection to fugitives, and 
few were ever returned to bondage com- 
pared with the number that escaped, 
yet the fear of recapture was ever with 
them, darkening their lives and imped- 
ing their pursuit of happiness. 

But even the partial freedom Doug- 
lass had achieved gave birth to a thou- 
sand delightful sensations. In his auto- 
biography he describes this dawn of 
liberty thus : — 

" A new world had opened up to me. 
I lived more in one day than in a year 
of my slave life. I felt as one might 
feel upon escape from a den of hungry 
lions. My chains were broken, and the 
victory brought me unspeakable joy. " 


But one cannot live long on joy ; and, 
while his chains were broken, he was 
not beyond the echo of their clanking. 
He met on the streets, within a few 
hours after his arrival in New York, a 
man of his own color, who informed 
him that New York was full of South- 
erners at that season of the year, and 
that slave-hunters and spies were numer- 
ous, that old residents of the city were 
not safe, and that any recent fugitive 
was in imminent danger. After this 
cheerful communication Douglass's in- 
formant left him, evidently fearing that 
Douglass himself might be a slave -hunt- 
ing spy. There were negroes base 
enough to play this role. In a sailor 
whom he encountered he found a friend. 
This Good Samaritan took him home 
for the night, and accompanied him next 
day to a Mr. David Euggles, a colored 
man, the secretary of the New York 
Vigilance Committee and an active anti- 
slavery worker. Mr. Euggles kept him 

concealed for several days, during which 
time the woman Douglass loved, a free 
woman, came on from Baltimore ; and 
they were married. He had no money 
in his pocket, and nothing to depend 
upon but his hands, which doubtless 
seemed to him quite a valuable posses- 
sion, as he knew they had brought in an 
income of several hundred dollars a year 
to their former owner. 

Douglass's new friends advised him to 
go to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where 
whaling fleets were fitted out, and where 
he might hope to find work at his trade 
of ship-calker. It was believed, too, that 
he would be safer there, as the anti- 
slavery sentiment was considered too 
strong to permit of a fugitive slave's 
being returned to the South. 

When Douglass, accompanied by his 
wife, arrived in New Bedford, a Mr. 
Nathan Johnson, a colored man to whom 
he had been recommended, received him 
kindly, gave him shelter and sympathy, 


and lent him a small sum of money to 
redeem his meagre baggage, which had 
been held by the stage- driver as security 
for an unpaid balance of the fare to New 
Bedford. In his autobiography Doug- 
lass commends Mr. Johnson for his 
" noble-hearted hospitality and manly 

In New York Douglass had changed 
his name in order the better to hide his 
identity from any possible pursuer. 
Douglass's name was another tie that 
bound him to his race. He has been 
called " Douglass" by the writer be- 
cause that was the name he took for 
himself, as he did his education and his 
freedom; and as u Douglass" he made 
himself famous. As a slave, he was 
legally entitled to but one name, — Fred- 
erick. From his grandfather, Isaac 
Bailey, a freeman, he had derived the 
surname Bailey. His mother, with un- 
conscious sarcasm, had called the little 
slave boy Frederick Augustus Washing- 

ton Bailey. The bearer of this imposing 
string of appellations had, with a finer 
sense of fitness, cut it down to Frederick 
Bailey. In New York he had called 
himself Frederick Johnson ; but, finding 
when he reached New Bedford that a 
considerable portion of the colored pop- 
ulation of the city already rejoiced in 
this familiar designation, he fell in with 
the suggestion of his host, who had been 
reading Scott's Lady of the Lake, and 
traced an analogy between the runaway 
slave and the fugitive chieftain, that the 
new freeman should call himself Doug- 
lass, after the noble Scot of that name. 
The choice proved not inappropriate, 
for this modern Douglass fought as 
valiantly in his own cause and with his 
own weapons as ever any Douglas 
fought with flashing steel in border 

Here, then, in a New England town, 
Douglass began the life of a freeman, 
from which, relieved now of the incubus 


of slavery, he soon emerged into the 
career for which, in the providence of 
God, he seemed by his multiform expe- 
rience to have been especially fitted. 
He did not find himself, even in Massa- 
chusetts, quite beyond the influence of 
slavery. While before the law of the 
State he was the equal of any other man, 
caste prejudice prevented him from find- 
ing work at his trade of calker ; and he 
therefore sought employment as a la- 
borer. This he found easily, and for 
three years worked at whatever his 
hands found to do. The hardest toil 
was easy to him, the heaviest burdens 
were light; for the money that he 
earned went into his own pocket. If it 
did not remain there long, he at least 
had the satisfaction of spending it and of 
enjoying what it purchased. 

During these three years he was learn- 
ing the lesson of liberty and uncon- 
sciously continuing his training for the 
work of an anti-slavery agitator. He 


became a subscriber to the Liberator, 
each number of which he devoured with 
eagerness. He heard William Lloyd 
Garrison lecture, and became one of his 
most devoted disciples. He attended 
every anti-slavery meeting in New Bed- 
ford, and now and then spoke on the 
subject of slavery in humble gatherings 
of his own people. 


In 1841 Douglass entered upon that 
epoch of his life which brought the 
hitherto obscure refugee prominently be- 
fore the public, and in which his services 
as anti-slavery orator and reformer con- 
stitute his chief claim to enduring recol- 
lection. Millions of negroes whose lives 
had been far less bright than Douglass's 
had lived and died in slavery. Thou- 
sands of fugitives under assumed names 
were winning a precarious livelihood in 
the free States and trembling in con- 
stant fear of the slave- catcher. Some 
of these were doing noble work in assist- 
ing others to escape from bondage. Mr. 
Siebert, in his Underground Railroad, 
mentions one fugitive slave, John Mason 
by name, who assisted thirteen hundred 
others to escape from Kentucky. An- 
other picturesque fugitive was Harriet 
Tubman, who devoted her life to this 
work with a courage, skill, and success 

that won her a wide reputation among 
the friends of freedom. A number of 
free colored men in the North, a few of 
them wealthy and cultivated, lent their 
time and their means to this cause. But 
it was reserved for Douglass, by virtue 
of his marvellous gift of oratory, to be- 
come pre-eminently the personal repre- 
sentative of his people for a generation. 
In 1841 the Massachusetts Anti-slav- 
ery Society, which had been for some 
little time weakened by faction, ar- 
ranged its differences, and entered upon 
a campaign of unusual activity, which 
found expression in numerous meetings 
throughout the free States, mainly in 
New England. On August 15 of that 
year a meeting was held at Nantucket, 
Massachusetts. The meeting was con- 
ducted by John A. Collins, at that time 
general agent of the society, and was ad- 
dressed by William Lloyd Garrison and 
other leading abolitionists. Douglass had 
taken a holiday and come from New Bed- 

ford to attend this convention, without 
the remotest thought of taking part ex- 
cept as a spectator. The proceedings 
were interesting, and aroused the audi- 
ence to a high state of feeling. There 
was present in the meeting a certain 
abolitionist, by name "William C. Coffin, 
who had heard Douglass speak in the 
little negro Sunday-school at New Bed- 
ford, and who knew of his recent escape 
from slavery. To him came the happy 
inspiration to ask Douglass to speak a 
few words to the convention by way of 
personal testimony. Collins introduced 
the speaker as "a graduate from slav- 
ery, with his diploma written upon his 

Douglass himself speaks very modestly 
about this, his first public appearance. 
He seems, from his own account, to have 
suffered somewhat from stage fright, 
which was apparently his chief memory 
concerning it. The impressions of others, 
however, allowing a little for the enthu- 

siasm of the moment, are a safer guide 
as to the effect of Douglass's first speech. 
Parker Pillsbury reported that, u though 
it was late in the evening when the young 
man closed his remarks, none seemed to 
know or care for the hour. . . . The 
crowded congregation had been wrought 
up almost to enchantment during the 
whole long evening, particularly by 
some of the utterances of the last speaker 
[Douglass], as he turned over the ter- 
rible apocalypse of his experience in 
slavery. " Mr. Garrison bore testimony 
to " the extraordinary emotion it exerted 
on his own mind and to the powerful 
impression it exerted upon a crowded 
auditory. " "Patrick Henry," he de- 
clared, "had never made a more elo- 
quent speech than the one they had just 
listened to from the lips of the hunted 
fugitive. " Upon Douglass and his 
speech as a text Mr. Garrison delivered 
one of the sublimest and most masterly 
efforts of his life ; and then and there 

began the friendship between the fugitive 
slave and the great agitator which 
opened the door for Douglass to a life 
of noble usefulness, and secured to the 
anti-slavery cause one of its most brill- 
iant and effective orators. 

At Garrison's instance Collins offered 
Douglass employment as lecturer for the 
Anti-slavery Society, though the idea 
of thus engaging him doubtless occurred 
to more than one of the abolition leaders 
who heard his Nantucket speech. Doug- 
lass was distrustful of his own powers. 
Only three years out of slavery, with 
little learning and no experience as a 
public speaker, painfully aware of the 
prejudice which must be encountered by 
men of his color, fearful too of the pub- 
licity that might reveal his whereabouts 
to his legal owner, who might reclaim 
his property wherever found, he yielded 
only reluctantly to Mr. Collins' s propo- 
sition, and agreed at first upon only a 
three months' term of service. 


Most of the abolitionists were, or meant 
to be, consistent in their practice of what 
they preached ; and so, when Douglass 
was enrolled as one of the little band of 
apostles, they treated him literally as a 
man and a brother. Their homes, their 
hearts, and their often none too well- 
filled purses were open to him. In this 
new atmosphere his mind expanded, his 
spirit took on high courage, and he read 
and studied diligently, that he might 
make himself worthy of his opportunity 
to do something for his people. 

During the remainder of 1841 Doug- 
lass travelled and lectured in Eastern 
Massachusetts with George Foster, in the 
interest of the two leading abolition 
journals, the Anti-slavery Standard and 
the Liberator ', and also lectured in Ehode 
Island against the proposed Dorr consti- 
tution, which sought to limit the right 
of suffrage to white male citizens only, 
thus disfranchising colored men who 
had theretofore voted. With Foster and 

Pillsbury and Parker and Monroe and 
Abby Kelly he labored to defeat the 
Dorr constitution and at the same time 
promote the abolition gospel. The pro- 
posed constitution was defeated, and col- 
ored men who could meet the Ehode 
Island property qualification were left 
in possession of the right to vote. 

Douglass had plunged into this new 
work, after the first embarrassment wore 
off, with all the enthusiasm of youth and 
hope. But, except among the little band 
of Garrisonians and their sympathizers, 
his position did not relieve him from the 
disabilities attaching to his color. The 
feeling toward the negro in New Eng- 
land in 1841 was but little different 
from that in the State of Georgia to-day. 
Men of color were regarded and treated 
as belonging to a distinctly inferior order 
of creation. At hotels and places of 
public resort they were refused enter- 
tainment. On railroads and steamboats 
they were herded off by themselves in 


mean and uncomfortable cars. If wel- 
comed in churches at all, they were 
carefully restricted to the negro pew. 
As in the Southern States to-day, no 
distinction was made among them in 
these respects by virtue of dress or man- 
ners or culture or means ; but all were 
alike discriminated against because of 
their dark skins. Some of Douglass's 
abolition friends, among whom he espe- 
cially mentions Wendell Phillips and 
two others of lesser note, won their way 
to his heart by at all times refusing to 
accept privileges that were denied to 
their swarthy companion. Douglass re- 
sented proscription wherever met with, 
and resisted it with force when the odds 
were not too overwhelming. More than 
once he was beaten and maltreated by 
railroad conductors and brakemen. For 
a time the Eastern Eailroad ran its cars 
through Lynn, Massachusetts, without 
stopping, because Douglass, who resided 
at that time in Lynn, insisted on riding 


in the white people's car, and made 
trouble when interfered with. Often it 
was impossible for the abolitionists to se- 
cure a meeting-place ; and in several in- 
stances Douglass paraded the streets with 
a bell, like a town crier, to announce 
that he would lecture in the open air. 

Some of Douglass's friends, it must be 
admitted, were at times rather extreme 
in their language, and perhaps stirred 
up feelings that a more temperate vocab- 
ulary would not have aroused. None 
of them ever hesitated to call a spade a 
spade, and some of them denounced 
slavery and all its sympathizers with 
the vigor and picturesqueness of a Mug- 
gletonian or Fifth Monarchy man of 
Cromwell's time execrating his religious 
adversaries. And, while it was true 
enough that the Church and the State 
were, generally speaking, the obsequious 
tools of slavery, it was not easy for an 
abolitionist to say so in vehement lan- 
guage without incurring the charge of 


treason or blasphemy, — an old trick 
of bigotry and tyranny to curb freedom 
of thought and freedom of speech. The 
little personal idiosyncrasies which some 
of the reformers affected, such as long 
hair in the men and short hair in the 
women, — there is surely some psycho- 
logical reason why reformers run to such 
things, — served as convenient excuses 
for gibes and unseemly interruptions at 
their public meetings. On one memo- 
rable occasion, at Syracuse, New York, 
in November, 1842, Douglass and his fel- 
lows narrowly escaped tar and feathers. 
But, although Douglass was vehemently 
denunciatory of slavery in all its aspects, 
his twenty years of training in that hard 
school had developed in him a vein of 
prudence that saved him from these 
verbal excesses, — perhaps there was also 
some element of taste involved, — and 
thus made his arguments more effective 
than if he had alienated his audiences by 
indiscriminate attacks on all the institu- 


tions of society. No one could justly ac- 
cuse Frederick Douglass of cowardice or 
self-seeking ; yet he was opportunist 
enough to sacrifice the immaterial for 
the essential, and to use the best means 
at hand to promote the ultimate object 
sought, although the means thus offered 
might not be the ideal instrument. It 
was doubtless this trait that led Douglass, 
after he separated from his abolitionist 
friends, to modify his views upon the 
subject of disunion and the constitu- 
tionality of slavery, and to support 
political parties whose platforms by no 
means expressed the full measure of his 

In 1843 the New England Anti-slavery 
Society resolved, at its annual meeting 
in the spring, to stir the Northern heart 
and rouse the national conscience by a 
series of one hundred conventions in 
New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, 
Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. 
Douglass was assigned as one of the 

agents for the conduct of this under- 
taking. Among those associated in this 
work, which extended over five months, 
were John A. Collins, the president of 
the society, who mapped out the cam- 
paign ; James Monroe ; George Brad- 
burn ; William A. White ; Charles L. 
Eemond, a colored orator, born in Mas- 
sachusetts, who rendered effective ser- 
vice in the abolition cause ; and Sidney 
Howard Gay, at that time managing 
editor of the National Anti-slavery Stand- 
ard and later of the New York Tribune 
and the New York Evening Post 

The campaign upon which this little 
band of missionaries set out was no in- 
considerable one. They were not going 
forth to face enthusiastic crowds of sup- 
porters, who would meet them with brass 
bands and shouts of welcome. They 
were more likely to be greeted with 
hisses and cat- calls, sticks and stones, 
stale eggs and decayed cabbages, hoots 
and yells of derision, and decorations 
of tar and feathers. 


In some towns of Vermont slanderous 
reports were made in advance of their 
arrival, their characters were assailed, 
and their aims and objects misrepre- 
sented. In Syracuse, afterward distin- 
guished for its strong anti-slavery senti- 
ment, the abolitionists were compelled 
to hold their meetings in the public 
park, from inability to procure a house 
in which to speak ; and only after their 
convention was well under way were 
they offered the shelter of a dilapidated 
and abandoned church. In Eochester 
they met with a more hospitable recep- 
tion. The indifference of Buffalo so dis- 
gusted Douglass's companions that they 
shook the dust of the city from their 
feet, and left Douglass, who was accus- 
tomed to coldness and therefore un- 
daunted by it, to tread the wine-press 
alone. He spoke in an old post-office 
for nearly a week, to such good purpose 
that a church was thrown open to him ; 
and on a certain Sunday, in the public 

park, lie held and thrilled by his elo- 
quence an audience of five thousand 

On leaving Buffalo, Douglass joined 
the other speakers, and went with them 
to Clinton County, Ohio, where, under 
a large tent, a mass meeting was held 
of abolitionists who had come from 
widely scattered points. During an ex- 
cursion made about this time to Penn- 
sylvania to attend a convention at 
Norristown, an attempt was made to 
lynch him at Manayunk ; but his usual 
good fortune served him, and he lived 
to be threatened by higher powers than 
a pro-slavery mob. 

When the party of reformers reached 
Indiana, where the pro-slavery spirit 
was always strong, the State having been 
settled largely by Southerners, their 
campaign of education became a running 
fight, in which Douglass, whose dark 
skin attracted most attention, often got 
more than his share. His strength and 


address brought him safely out of many 
an encounter ; but in a struggle with a 
mob at Eichmond, Indiana, he was badly 
beaten and left unconscious on the 
ground. A good Quaker took him home 
in his wagon, his wife bound up Doug- 
lass's wounds and nursed him tenderly, — 
the Quakers were ever the consistent 
friends of freedom, — but for the lack of 
proper setting he carried to the grave a 
stiff hand as the result of this affray. 
He had often been introduced to audi- 
ences as "a graduate from slavery with 
his diploma written upon his back" : 
from Indiana he received the distinction 
of a post-graduate degree. 


It can easily be understood that such 
a man as Douglass, thrown thus into 
stimulating daily intercourse with some 
of the brightest minds of his generation, 
all animated by a high and noble enthu- 
siasm for liberty and humanity, — such 
men as Garrison and Phillips and Gay 
and Monroe and many others, — should 
have developed with remarkable ra- 
pidity those reserves of character and 
intellect which slavery had kept in 
repression. And yet, while aware of his 
wonderful talent for oratory, he never 
for a moment let this knowledge turn 
his head or obscure the consciousness 
that he had brought with him out of 
slavery some of the disabilities of that 
status. Naturally, his expanding intel- 
ligence sought a wider range of expres- 
sion ; and his simple narrative of the 
wrongs of slavery gave way sometimes 
to a discussion of its philosophy. His 


abolitionist friends would have pre- 
ferred him to stick a little more closely 
to the old line, — to furnish the expe- 
rience while they provided the argu- 
ment. But the strong will that slavery 
had not been able to break was not 
always amenable to politic suggestion. 
Douglass's style and vocabulary and 
logic improved so rapidly that people 
began to question his having been a 
slave. His appearance, speech, and 
manner differed so little in material par- 
ticulars from those of his excellent exem- 
plars that many people were sceptical of 
his antecedents. Douglass had, since his 
escape from slavery, carefully kept silent 
about the place he came from and his 
master's name and the manner of his 
escape, for the very good reason that 
their revelation would have informed his 
master of his whereabouts and rendered 
his freedom precarious ; for the fugitive 
slave law was in force, and only here 
and there could local public sentiment 


have prevented its operation. Confronted 
with the probability of losing his useful- 
ness, as the u awful example/' Douglass 
took the bold step of publishing in the 
spring of 1845 the narrative of his expe- 
rience as a slave, giving names of people 
and places, and dates as nearly as he 
could recall them. His abolitionist 
friends doubted the expediency of this 
step ; and Wendell Phillips advised him 
to throw the manuscript into the fire, 
declaring that the government of Massa- 
chusetts had neither the power nor the 
will to protect him from the conse- 
quences of his daring. 

The pamphlet was widely read. It 
was written in a style of graphic sim- 
plicity, and was such an expose of slavery 
as exasperated its jealous supporters and 
beneficiaries. Douglass soon had excel- 
lent reasons to fear that he would be re- 
captured by force or guile and returned 
to slavery or a worse fate. The pros- 
pect was not an alluring one ; and hence, 

to avoid an involuntary visit to the 
scenes of his childhood, he sought lib- 
erty beyond the sea, where men of his 
color have always enjoyed a larger free- 
dom than in their native land. 

In 1845 Douglass set sail for England 
on board the Cambria, of the Cunard 
Line, accompanied by James N. Buffum, 
a prominent abolitionist of Lynn, Mas- 
sachusetts. On the same steamer were 
the Hutchinson family, who lent their 
sweet songs to the anti-slavery crusade. 
Douglass's color rendered him ineligible 
for cabin passage, and he was relegated 
to the steerage. Nevertheless, he be- 
came quite the lion of the vessel, made 
the steerage fashionable, was given the 
freedom of the ship, and invited to lect- 
ure on slavery. This he did to the 
satisfaction of all the passengers except 
a few young men from New Orleans and 
Georgia, who, true to the instincts of 
their caste, made his strictures on the 
South a personal matter, and threatened 

to throw him' overboard. Their zeal 
was diminished by an order of the cap- 
tain to put them in irons. They sulked 
in their cabins, however, and rushed 
into print when they reached Liverpool, 
thus giving Douglass the very introduc- 
tion he needed to the British public, 
which was promptly informed, by him- 
self and others, of the true facts in re- 
gard to the steamer speech and the 


The two years Douglass spent in 
Great Britain upon this visit were active 
and fruitful ones, and did much to bring 
him to that full measure of development 
scarcely possible for him in slave-ridden 
America. For while the English gov- 
ernment had fostered slavery prior to the 
Bevolution, and had only a few years 
before Douglass's visit abolished it in its 
own colonies, this wretched system had 
never fastened its clutches upon the home 
islands. Slaves had been brought to 
England, it is true, and carried away ; 
but, when the right to remove them 
was questioned in court, Lord Chief Jus- 
tice Mansfield, with an abundance of 
argument and precedent to support a 
position similar to that of Justice Taney 
in the Dred Scott case, had taken the 
contrary view, and declared that the air 
of England was free, and the slave who 
breathed it but once ceased thereby to 


be a slave. History and humanity have 
delivered their verdict on these two de- 
cisions, and time is not likely to dis- 
turb it. 

A few days after landing at Liverpool, 
Douglass went to Ireland, where the agi- 
tation for the repeal of the union between 
Great Britain and Ireland was in full 
swing, under the leadership of Daniel 
? Connell, the great Irish orator. O' Con- 
nell had denounced slavery in words of 
burning eloquence. The Garrisonian 
abolitionists advocated the separation of 
the free and slave States as the only 
means of securing some part of the 
United States to freedom. The Ameri- 
can and Irish disunionists were united 
by a strong bond of sympathy. Douglass 
was soon referred to as "the black 
O' Connell, ?? and lectured on slavery and 
on temperance to large and enthusiastic 
audiences. He was introduced to ? Con- 
nell, and exchanged compliments with 
him. A public breakfast was given him 

at Cork, and a soiree by Father Mathew, 
the eminent leader of the great temper- 
ance crusade which at that time shared 
with the repeal agitation the public in- 
terest of Ireland. A reception to Doug- 
lass and his friend Buffuni was held in 
St. Patrick's Temperance Hall, where 
they were greeted with a special song of 
welcome, written for the occasion. On 
January 6, 1846, a public breakfast was 
given Douglass at Belfast, at which the 
local branch of the British and Foreign 
Anti-slavery Society presented him with 
a Bible bound in gold. 

After four months in Ireland, where 
he delivered more than fifty lectures, 
Douglass and his friend Buffum left Ire- 
land, on January 10, 1846, for Scotland, 
where another important reform was in 
progress. It was an epoch of rebellion 
against the established order of things. 
The spirit of revolt was in the air. The 
disruption movement in the Established 
Church of Scotland, led by the famous 


Dr. Chalmers, had culminated in 1843 
in the withdrawal of four hundred and 
seventy ministers, who gave up the 
shelter and security of the Establishment 
for the principle that a congregation 
should choose its own pastor, and organ- 
ized themselves into the Free Protesting 
Church, commonly called the Free Kirk. 
An appeal had been issued to the Presby- 
terian churches of the world for aid to 
establish a sustentation fund for the use 
of the new church. Among the contri- 
butions from the United States was one 
from a Presbyterian church in Charles- 
ton, South Carolina. Just before this 
contribution arrived a South Carolina 
judge had condemned a Northern man 
to death for aiding the escape of a female 
slave. This incident had aroused horror 
and indignation throughout Great Brit- 
ain. Lord Brougham had commented 
on it in the House of Lords, and Lord 
Chief Justice Denham had characterized 
it "in the name of all the judges of 


England " as a " horrible iniquity. ?? 
O'Connell had rejected proffered contri- 
butions from the Southern States, and an 
effort was made in Scotland to have the 
South Carolina money sent back. The 
attempt failed ultimately ; but the agita- 
tion on the subject was for a time very 
fierce, and gave Douglass and his friends 
the opportunity to strike many telling 
blows at slavery. He had never minced 
his words in the United States, and he 
now handled without gloves the govern- 
ment whose laws had driven him from 
its borders. 

From Scotland Douglass went to Eng- 
land, where he found still another great 
reform movement nearing a triumphant 
conclusion. The Anti-corn Law League, 
after many years of labor, under the 
leadership of Eichard Cobden and John 
Bright, for the abolition of the protec- 
tive tariff on wheat and other kinds of 
grain for food, had brought its agitation 
to a successful issue; and on June 26, 


1846, the Corn Laws were repealed. 
The generous enthusiasm for reform of 
one kind or another that pervaded the 
British Islands gave ready sympathy 
and support to the abolitionists in their 
mission. The abolition of slavery in the 
colonies had been decreed by Parliament 
in 1833, but the old leaders in that re- 
form had not lost their zeal for liberty. 
George Thompson, who with Clarkson 
and Wilberforce had led the British 
abolitionists, invited Garrison over to 
help reorganize the anti-slavery senti- 
ment of Great Britain against American 
slavery; and in August, 1846, Garrison 
went to England, in that year evidently 
a paradise of reformers. 

During the week beginning May 17, 
1846, Douglass addressed respectively 
the annual meeting of the British and 
Foreign Anti-slavery Society, a peace 
convention, a suffrage extension meet- 
ing, and a temperance convention, and 
spoke also at a reception where efforts 


were made to induce him to remain in 
England, and money subscribed to bring 
over his family. As will be seen here- 
after, he chose the alternative of return- 
ing to the United States. 

On August 7, 1846, Douglass addressed 
the World's Temperance Convention, 
held at Covent Garden Theatre, Lon- 
don. There were many speakers, and 
the time allotted to each was brief ; but 
Douglass never lost an opportunity to 
attack slavery, and he did so on this 
occasion over the shoulder of temper- 
ance. He stated that he was not a dele- 
gate to the convention, because those 
whom he might have represented were 
placed beyond the pale of American 
temperance societies either by slavery 
or by an inveterate prejudice against 
their color. He referred to the mobbing 
of a procession of colored temperance so- 
cieties in Philadelphia several years be- 
fore, the burning of one of their churches, 
and the wrecking of their best temper- 


ance hall. These remarks brought out 
loud protests and calls for order from the 
American delegates present, who mani- 
fested the usual American sensitiveness 
to criticism, especially on the subject of 
slavery ; but the house sustained Doug- 
lass, and demanded that he go on. 
Douglass was denounced for this in a 
letter to the New York papers by Eev. 
Dr. Cox, one of the American delegates. 
Douglass's reply to this letter gave him 
the better of the controversy. He some- 
times expressed the belief, founded on 
long experience, that doctors of divinity 
were, as a rule, among the most ardent 
supporters of slavery. Dr. Cox, who 
seems at least to have met the descrip- 
tion, was also a delegate to the Evangeli- 
cal Alliance, which met in London, Au- 
gust 19, 1846, with a membership of one 
thousand delegates from fifty different 
evangelical sects throughout the world. 
The question was raised in the conven- 
tion whether or not fellowship should be 


held with slaveholders. Dr. Cox and 
the other Americans held that it should, 
and their views ultimately prevailed. 
Douglass made some telling speeches at 
Anti-slavery League meetings, in de- 
nunciation of the cowardice of the Alli- 
ance, and won a wide popularity. 

Douglass remained in England two 
years. Not only did this visit give him 
a great opportunity to influence British 
public opinion against slavery, but the 
material benefits to himself were inesti- 
mable. He had left the United States 
a slave before the law, denied every civil 
right and every social privilege, literally 
a man without a country, and forced to 
cross the Atlantic among the cattle in 
the steerage of the steamboat. During 
his sojourn in Great Britain an English 
lady, Mrs. Ellen Eichardson, of New- 
castle, had raised seven hundred and 
fifty dollars, which was paid over to 
Hugh Auld, of Maryland, to secure 
Douglass's legal manumission; and, not 

content with this generous work, the 
same large-hearted lady had raised by 
subscription about two thousand five 
hundred dollars, which Douglass carried 
back to the United States as a free gift, 
and used to start his newspaper. He 
had met in Europe, as he said in a fare- 
well speech, men quite as white as he 
had ever seen in the United States and 
of quite as noble exterior, and had seen 
in their faces no scorn of his complexion. 
He had travelled over the four king- 
doms, and had encountered no sign of 
disrespect. He had been lionized in 
London, had spoken every night of his 
last month there, and had declined as 
many more invitations. He had shaken 
hands with the venerable Clarkson, and 
had breakfasted with the philosopher 
Combe, the author of The Constitution 
of Man. He had won the friendship 
of John Bright, had broken bread with 
Sir John Bowring, had been introduced 
to Lord Brougham, the brilliant leader 


of the Liberal party, and had listened 
to his wonderful eloquence. He had 
met Douglas Jerrold, the famous wit, 
and had been entertained by the poet, 
William Howitt, who made a farewell 
speech in his honor. Everywhere he 
had denounced slavery, everywhere hos- 
pitable doors had opened wide to receive 
him, everywhere he had made friends 
for himself and his cause. A slave and 
an outcast at home, he had been made 
to feel himself a gentleman, had been 
the companion of great men and good 
women. Urged to remain in this land 
of freedom, and offered aid to establish 
himself in life there, his heart bled for 
his less fortunate brethren in captivity ; 
and, with the God-speed of his English 
friends ringing in his ears, he went back 
to America, — to scorn, to obloquy, to 
ostracism, but after all to the work to 
which he had been ordained, and which 
he was so well qualified to perform. 


Douglass landed April 20, 1847. 
He returned to the United States with 
the intention of publishing the news- 
paper for which his English friends 
had so kindly furnished the means ; but 
his plan meeting with opposition from 
his abolitionist friends, who thought the 
platform offered him a better field for 
usefulness, he deferred the enterprise 
until near the end of the year. In the 
mean time he plunged again into the 
thick of the anti-slavery agitation. We 
find him lecturing in May in the Broad- 
way Tabernacle, New York, and writing 
letters to the anti-slavery papers. In 
June he was elected president of the 
New England Anti-slavery Convention. 
In August and September he went on a 
lecturing tour with Garrison and others 
through Pennsylvania and Ohio. On 
this tour the party attended the com- 
mencement exercises of Oberlin College, 

famous for its anti-slavery principles and 
practice, and spoke to immense meet- 
ings at various places in Ohio and New 
York. Their cause was growing in 
popular favor ; and, in places where for- 
merly they had spoken out of doors be- 
cause of the difficulty of securing a place 
of meeting, they were now compelled to 
speak in the open air, because the 
churches and halls would not contain 
their audiences. 

On December 3, 1847, the first number 
of the North Star appeared. Douglass's 
abolitionist friends had not yet become 
reconciled to this project, and his per- 
sistence in it resulted in a temporary 
coldness between them. They very nat- 
urally expected him to be guided by 
their advice. They had found him on 
the wharf at New Bedford, and given 
him his chance in life ; and they may 
easily be pardoned for finding it pre- 
sumptuous in him to disregard their ad- 
vice and adopt a new line of conduct 

without consulting them. Mr. Garrison 
wrote in a letter to his wife from Cleve- 
land, " It will also greatly surprise our 
friends in Boston to hear that in regard 
to his prospect of establishing a paper 
here, to be called the North Star, he 
never opened his lips to me on the sub- 
ject nor asked my advice in any partic- 
ular whatever. 7 ' But Samuel May, Jr., 
in a letter written to one of Douglass's 
English friends, in which he mentions 
this charge of Garrison, adds, "It is 
only common justice to Frederick Doug- 
lass to inform you that this is a mistake ; 
that, on the contrary, he did speak to 
Mr. Garrison about it, just before he was 
taken ill at Cleveland. 77 The probabil- 
ity is that Douglass had his mind made 
up, and did not seek advice, and that 
Mr. Garrison did not attach much im- 
portance to any casual remark Douglass 
may have made upon the subject. In a 
foot-note to the Life and Times of Gar- 
rison it is stated : — 


"This enterprise was not regarded 
with favor by the leading abolitionists, 
who knew only too well the precarious 
support which a fifth anti-slavery paper, 
edited by a colored man, must have, and 
who appreciated to the full Douglass's 
unrivalled powers as a lecturer in the 
field. . . . As anticipated, it nearly 
proved the ruin of its projector ; but 
by extraordinary exertions it was kept 
alive, not, however, on the platform of 
Garrisonian abolitionism. The necessary 
support could only be secured by a change 
of principles in accordance with Mr. 
Douglass's immediate (political aboli- 
tion) environment. ■ ? 

Douglass's own statement does not 
differ very widely from this, except that 
he does not admit the mercenary motive 
for his change of principles. It was in 
deference, however, to the feelings of 
his former associates that the North Star 
was established at Eochester instead of 
in the East, where the field for anti- 

slavery papers was already fully occu- 
pied. In Eochester, then as now the 
centre of a thrifty, liberal, and progres- 
sive population, Douglass gradually won 
the sympathy and support which such 
an enterprise demanded. 

The North Star, in size, typography, 
and interest, compared favorably with 
the other weeklies of the day, and lived 
for seventeen years. It had, however, 
its "ups and downs." At one time the 
editor had mortgaged his house to pay 
the running expenses ; but friends came 
to his aid, his debts were paid, and the 
circulation of the paper doubled. In 
My Bondage and my Freedom Douglass 
gives the names of numerous persons 
who helped him in these earlier years of 
editorial effort, among whom were a 
dozen of the most distinguished public 
men of his day. After the North Star 
had been in existence several years, its 
name was changed to Frederick Douglass's 
Paper, to give it a more distinctive desig- 


nation, the newspaper firmament already 
scintillating with many other " Stars. " 

In later years Douglass speaks of this 
newspaper enterprise as one of the wisest 
things he ever undertook. To para- 
phrase Lord Bacon's famous inaxini, 
much reading of life and of books had 
made him a full man, and much speak- 
ing had made him a ready man. The at- 
tempt to put facts and arguments into 
literary form tended to make him more 
logical in reasoning and more exact in 
statement. One of the effects of Doug- 
lass's editorial responsibility and the in- 
fluences brought to bear upon him by 
reason of it, was a change in his political 
views. Until he began the publication 
of the North Star and for several years 
thereafter, he was, with the rest of the 
Garrisonians, a pronounced disunionist. 
He held to the Garrisonian doctrine that 
the pro-slavery Constitution of the United 
States was a " league with death and a 
covenant with hell," maintained that 


anti-slavery men should not vote under 
it. and advocated the separation of the 
free States as the only means of prevent- 
ing the utter extinction of freedom by 
the ever- advancing encroachments of 
the slave power. In Eochester he found 
himself in the region where the Liberty 
party, under the leadership of James G. 
Birney, Salmon P. Chase, Gerrit Smith, 
and others, had its largest support. The 
Liberty party maintained that slavery 
could be fought best with political 
weapons, that by the power of the bal- 
lot slavery could be confined strictly 
within its constitutional limits and pre* 
vented from invading new territory, and 
that it could be extinguished by the re- 
spective States whenever the growth of 
public opinion demanded it. One wing 
of the party took the more extreme 
ground that slavery was contrary to the 
true intent and meaning of the Consti- 
tution, and demanded that the country 
should return to the principles of liberty 

upon which it was founded. Though 
the more radical abolitionists were for 
a time bitterly opposed to these views, 
yet the Liberty party was the natural 
outgrowth of the abolition agitation. 
Garrison and Phillips and Douglass and 
the rest had planted, Birney and Gerrit 
Smith and Chase and the rest watered, 
and the Union party, led by the great 
emancipator, garnered the grain after 
a bloody harvest. 

Several influences must have co-oper- 
ated to modify Douglass's political views. 
The moral support and occasional finan- 
cial aid given his paper by members 
of the Liberty party undoubtedly pre- 
disposed him favorably to their opin- 
ions. His retirement as agent of the 
Anti-slavery Society and the coolness 
resulting therefrom had taken him out 
of the close personal contact with those 
fervent spirits who had led the van in 
the struggle for liberty. Their zeal had. 
been more disinterested, perhaps, than 

Douglass's own ; for, after all, they had 
no personal stake in the outcome, while r 
to Douglass and his people the abolition 
of slavery was a matter of life and death. 
Serene in the high altitude of their con- 
victions, the Garrisonians would accept 
no half-way measures, would compromise 
no principles, and, if their right arm 
offended them, would cut it off with 
sublime fortitude and cast it into the 
fire. They wanted a free country, where 
the fleeing victim of slavery could find a 
refuge. Douglass perceived the im- 
mense advantage these swarming mill- 
ions would gain through being free in 
the States where they already were. He 
had always been minded to do the best 
thing possible. "When a slave, he had 
postponed his escape until it seemed en- 
tirely feasible. When denied cabin pas- 
sage on steamboats, he had gone in the 
steerage or on deck. When he had been 
refused accommodation in a hotel, he had 
sought it under any humble roof that 


offered. It would have been a fine thing 
in the abstract to refuse the half-loaf, 
but in that event we should have had no 
Frederick Douglass. It was this very 
vein of prudence, keeping always in 
view the object to be attained, and in a 
broad, non- Jesuitical sense subordinating 
the means to the end, that enabled 
Douglass to prolong his usefulness a 
generation after the abolition of slavery. 
Douglass in his Life and Times states his 
own case as follows : — 

u After a time, a careful reconsidera- 
tion of the subject convinced me that 
there was no necessity for dissolving the 
union between the Northern and South- 
ern States ; that to seek this dissolution 
was no part of my duty as an abolitionist ; 
that to abstain from voting was to re- 
fuse to exercise a legitimate and power- 
ful means for abolishing slavery ; and 
that the Constitution of the United 
States not only contained no guarantees 
in favor of slavery, but, on the contrary, 


was in its letter and spirit an anti- 
slavery instrument, demanding the abo- 
lition of slavery as a condition of its own 
existence, as the supreme law of the 

This opinion was not exactly the opin- 
ion of the majority of the Liberty party, 
which did not question the constitu- 
tionality of slavery in the slave States. 
Neither was it the opinion of the Supreme 
Court, which in the Dred Scott case held 
that the Constitution guaranteed not only 
the right to hold slaves, but to hold them 
in free States. Nevertheless, entertain- 
ing the views he did, Douglass was able 
to support the measures which sought to 
oppose slavery through political action. 
In August, 1848, while his Garrisonian 
views were as yet unchanged, he had 
been present as a spectator at the Free 
Soil Convention at Buffalo. In his Life 
and Times he says of this gathering : 
"This Buffalo Convention of Free Soil- 
ers, however low their standard, did 

lay the foundation of a grand super- 
structure. It was a powerful link in 
the chain of events by which the slave 
system has been abolished, the slave 
emancipated, and the country saved 
from dismemberment. " In 1851 Doug- 
lass announced that his sympathies were 
with the voting abolitionists, and thence- 
forth he supported by voice and pen 
Hale, Fremont, and Lincoln, the suc- 
cessive candidates of the new party. 

Douglass's political defection very 
much intensified the feeling against him 
among his former coadjutors. The Gar- 
risonians, with their usual plain speak- 
ing, did not hesitate to say what they 
thought of Douglass. Their three papers, 
the Liberator, the Standard, and the 
Freeman, assailed Douglass fiercely, and 
charged him with treachery, inconsist- 
ency, ingratitude, and all the other 
crimes so easily imputed to one who 
changes his opinions. Garrison and 
Phillips and others of his former asso- 

dates denounced him as a deserter, and 
attributed his change of heart to merce- 
nary motives. Douglass seems to have 
borne himself with rare dignity and mod- 
eration in this trying period. He real- 
ized perfectly well that he was on the 
defensive, and that the burden devolved 
upon him to justify his change of front. 
This he seems to have attempted vigor- 
ously, but by argument rather than in- 
vective. Even during the height of the 
indignation against him Douglass dis- 
claimed any desire to antagonize his 
former associates. He simply realized 
that there was more than one way to 
fight slavery, — which knew a dozen 
ways to maintain itself, — and had con- 
cluded to select the one that seemed 
most practical. He was quite willing 
that his former friends should go their 
own way. "No personal assaults/' he 
wrote to George Thompson, the English 
abolitionist, who wrote to him for an 
explanation of the charges made against 

-hini, " shall ever lead me to forget that 
some, who in America have often made 
me the subject of personal abuse, are in 
their own way earnestly working for 
the abolition of slavery." 

In later years, when political action 
had resulted in abolition, some of these 
harsh judgments were modified, and 
Douglass and his earlier friends met in 
peace and harmony. The debt he owed 
to "William Lloyd Garrison he ever de- 
lighted to acknowledge. Plis speech on 
the death of Garrison breathes in every 
word the love and honor in which he 
held him. In one of the last chapters of 
his Life and Times he makes a sweeping 
acknowledgment of his obligations to the 
men and women who rendered his career 

"It was my good fortune/' he writes, 
"to get out of slavery at the right time, 
to be speedily brought in contact with 
that circle of highly cultivated men and 
women, banded together for the over- 


throw of slavery, of which William 
Lloyd Garrison was the acknowledged 
leader. To these friends, earnest, cour- 
ageous, inflexible, ready to own me as a 
man and a brother, against all the scorn, 
contempt, and derision of a slavery- 
polluted atmosphere, I owe my success 
in life." 


Events moved rapidly in the decade 
preceding the war. In 1850 the new 
Fugitive Slave Law brought discourage- 
ment to the hearts of the friends of lib- 
erty. Douglass's utterances during this 
period breathed the fiery indignation 
which he felt when the slave-driver's 
whip was heard cracking over the free 
States, and all citizens were ordered to 
aid in the enforcement of this inhuman 
statute when called upon. This law 
really defeated its own purpose. There 
were thousands of conservative Northern 
men, who, recognizing the constitutional 
guarantees of slavery and the difficulty 
of abolishing it unless the South should 
take the initiative, were content that it 
should be preserved intact so long as it 
remained a local institution. But when 
the attempt was made to make the North 
wash the South' s dirty linen, and trans- 
form every man in the Northern States 

into a slave- catcher, it wrought a revul- 
sion of feeling that aroused widespread 
sympathy for the slave and strengthened 
the cause of freedom amazingly. Thou- 
sands of escaped slaves were living in 
Northern communities. Some of them 
had acquired homes, had educated their 
children, and in some States had become 
citizens and voters. Already social pa- 
riahs, restricted generally to menial 
labor, bearing the burdens of poverty 
and prejudice, they now had thrust be- 
fore them the spectre of the kidnapper, 
the slave- catcher with his affidavit, and 
the United States Court, which was made 
by this law the subservient tool of tyr- 
anny. This law gave Douglass and the 
other abolitionists a new text. It was a 
set-back to their cause ; but they were 
not entirely disheartened, for they saw 
in it the desperate expedients by which 
it was sought to bolster up an institution 
already doomed by the advancing tide 
of civilization. 


The loss of slaves had become a serious 
drain upon the border States. The 
number of refugees settled in the North 
was, of course, largely a matter of esti- 
mate. Eunaway slaves were not apt to 
advertise their status, but rather to con- 
ceal it, so that most estimates were more 
likely to be under than over the truth. 
Henry Wilson places the number in the 
free States at twenty thousand. There 
were in Boston in 1850, according to a 
public statement of Theodore Parker, 
from four to six hundred ; and in other 
New England towns, notably New Bed- 
ford, the number was large. Other es- 
timates place the figures much higher. 
Mr. Siebert, in his Underground Railroad, 
after a careful calculation from the best 
obtainable data, puts the number of fu- 
gitives aided in Ohio alone at forty 
thousand in the thirty years preceding 
1860, and in the same period nine 
thousand in the city of Philadelphia 
alone, which was one of the principal 

stations of the underground railroad 
and the home of William Still, whose 
elaborate work on the Underground Bail- 
road gives the details of many thrilling 

In the work of assisting runaway slaves 
Douglass found congenial employment. 
It was exciting and dangerous, but in- 
spiring and soul-satisfying. He kept a 
room in his house always ready for fugi- 
tives, having with him as many as eleven 
at a time. He would keep them over 
night, pay their fare on the train for 
Canada, and give them half a dollar 
extra. And Canada, to her eternal 
honor be it said, received these assisted 
emigrants, with their fifty cents apiece, 
of alien race, debauched by slavery, gave 
them welcome and protection, refused to 
enter into diplomatic relations for their 
rendition to bondage, and spoke well of 
them as men and citizens when Henry 
Clay and the other slave leaders de- 
nounced them as the most worthless of 


their class. The example of Canada may 
be commended to those persons in the 
United States, of little faith, who, be- 
cause in thirty years the emancipated 
race have not equalled the white man in 
achievement, are fearful lest nothing 
good can be expected of them. 

In the stirring years of the early fifties 
Douglass led a busy life. He had each 
week to fill the columns of his paper 
and raise the money to pay its expenses. 
Add to this his platform work and the 
underground railroad work, which con- 
sisted not only in personal aid to the 
fugitives, but in raising money to pay 
their expenses, and his time was very 
adequately employed. In every anti- 
slavery meeting his face was welcome, 
and his position as a representative 
of his own peculiar people was daily 

When Uncle Tom's Cabin, in 1852, set 
the world on fire over the wrongs of the 
slave, — or rather the wrongs of slavery, 


for that wonderful book did not portray 
the negro as the only sufferer from this 
hoary iniquity, — Mrs. Stowe, in her 
new capacity as a champion of liberty, 
conceived the plan of raising a fund for 
the benefit of the colored race, and in 
1853 invited Douglass to visit her at 
Andover, Massachusetts, where she con- 
sulted with him in reference to the es- 
tablishment of an industrial institute or 
trades school for colored youth, with a 
view to improving their condition in the 
free States. Douglass approved heartily 
of this plan, and through his paper made 
himself its sponsor. When, later on, 
Mrs. Stowe abandoned the project, Doug- 
lass was made the subject of some criti- 
cism, though he was not at all to blame 
for Mrs. Stowe' s altered plans. In our 
own time the value of such institutions 
has been widely recognized, and the 
success of those at Hampton and Tus- 
kegee has stimulated anew the interest 
in industrial education as one important 

factor in the elevation of the colored 

In the years from 1853 to 1860 the 
slave power, inspired with divine mad- 
ness, rushed headlong toward its doom. 
The arbitrary enforcement of the Fugi- 
tive Slave Act ; the struggle between 
freedom and slavery in Kansas ; the 
Dred Scott decision, by which a learned 
and subtle judge, who had it within 
his power to enlarge the boundaries of 
human liberty and cover his own name 
with glory, deliberately and laboriously 
summarized and dignified with the sanc- 
tion of a court of last resort all the most 
odious prejudices that had restricted 
the opportunities of the colored people ; 
the repeal of the Missouri Compromise ; 
the John Brown raid ; the assault on 
Charles Sumner, — each of these inci- 
dents has been, in itself, the subject of 
more than one volume. Of these events 
the Dred Scott decision was the most 
disheartening. Douglass was not proof 

against the universal gloom, and began 
to feel that there was little hope of the 
peaceful solution of the question of slav- 
ery. It was in one of his darker mo- 
ments that old Sojourner Truth, whose 
face appeared in so many anti-slavery 
gatherings, put her famous question, 
which breathed a sublime and childlike 
faith in God, even when his hand seemed 
heaviest on her people: u Frederick, ? ? 
she asked, "is God dead?" The orator 
paused impressively, and then thundered 
in a voice that thrilled his audience with 
j)rophetic intimations, "No, God is not 
dead; and therefore it is that slavery 
must end in blood ! " 

During this period John Brown 
stamped his name indelibly upon Amer- 
ican history. It was almost inevitable 
that a man of the views, activities, and 
prominence of Douglass should become 
acquainted with John Brown. Their 
first meeting, however, was in 1847, 
more than ten years before the tragic 


episode at Harper's Ferry. At that 
time Brown was a merchant at Spring- 
field, Massachusetts, whither Douglass 
was invited to visit him. In his Life 
and Times he describes Brown as a pros- 
perous merchant, who in his home lived 
with the utmost abstemiousness, in order 
that he might save money for the great 
scheme he was already revolving. u His 
wife believed in him, and his children 
observed him with reverence. His ar- 
guments seemed to convince all, his 
appeals touched all, and his will im- 
pressed all. Certainly, I never felt 
myself in the presence of stronger relig- 
ious influence than while in this man's 
house." There in his own home, where 
Douglass stayed as his guest, Brown out- 
lined a plan which in substantially the 
same form he held dear to his heart for a 
decade longer. This plan, briefly stated, 
was to establish camps at certain easily 
defended points in the Alleghany Moun- 
tains ; to send emissaries down to the 


plantations in the lowlands, starting in 
Virginia, and draw off the slaves to 
these mountain fastnesses; to maintain 
bands of them there, if possible, as a 
constant menace to slavery and an ex- 
ample of freedom ; or, if that were im- 
practicable, to lead them to Canada 
from time to time by the most available 
routes. Wild as this plan may seem in 
the light of the desperate game subse- 
quently played by slavery, it did not 
at the time seem impracticable to such 
level-headed men as Theodore Parker 
and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. 

Douglass's views were very much 
colored by his association with Brown ; 
but, with his usual prudence and fore- 
sight, he pointed out the difficulties of 
this plan. From the time of their first 
meeting the relations of the two men 
were friendly and confidential. Captain 
Brown had his scheme ever in mind, 
and succeeded in convincing Douglass 
and others that it would subserve a use- 


ful purpose, — that, even if it resulted in 
failure, it would stir the conscience of 
the nation to a juster appreciation of the 
iniquity of slavery. 

The Kansas troubles, however, turned 
Brown's energies for a time into a dif- 
ferent channel. After Kansas had been 
secured to freedom, he returned with 
renewed ardor to his old project. He 
stayed for three weeks at Douglass's 
house at Eochester, and while there car- 
ried on an extensive correspondence with 
sympathizers and supporters, and thor- 
oughly demonstrated to all with whom 
he conversed that he was a man of one 
all-absorbing idea. 

In 1859, very shortly before the raid 
at Harper's Ferry, Douglass met Brown 
by appointment, in an abandoned stone 
quarry near Chambersburg, Pennsyl- 
vania. John Brown was already an 
outlaw, with a price upon his head ; for 
a traitor had betrayed his plan the year 
before, and he had for this reason de- 


ferred its execution for a year. The 
meeting was surrounded by all tlie mys- 
tery and conducted with, all the precau- 
tions befitting a meeting of conspirators. 
Brown had changed the details of his 
former plan, and told Douglass of his 
determination to take Harper's Ferry. 
Douglass opposed the measure vehe- 
mently, pointing out its certain and dis- 
astrous failure. Brown met each argu- 
ment with another, and was not to be 
swayed from his purpose. They spent 
more than a day together discussing the 
details of the movement. When the 
more practical Douglass declined to take 
part in Brown's attempt, the old man 
threw his arms around his swarthy 
friend, in a manner typical of his friend- 
ship for the dark race, and said : u Come 
with me, Douglass, I will defend you 
with my life. I want you for a special 
purpose. When I strike, the bees will 
begin to swarm, and I shall want you to 
help hive them." But Douglass would 

not be persuaded. His abandonment of 
his old friend on the eve of a desperate 
enterprise was criticised by some, who, 
as Douglass says, "kept even farther 
from this brave and heroic man than I 
did." John Brown went forth to meet 
a felon's fate and wear a martyr's crown : 
Douglass lived to fight the battles of his 
race for years to come. There was room 
for both, and each played the part for 
which he was best adapted. It would 
have strengthened the cause of liberty 
very little for Douglass to die with 

It is quite likely, however, that he 
narrowly escaped Brown's fate. When 
the raid at Harper's Ferry had roused 
the country, Douglass, with other lead- 
ing Northern men, was indicted in 
Virginia for complicity in the affair. 
Brown's correspondence had fallen into 
the hands of the Virginia authorities, 
and certain letters seemed to implicate 
Douglass. A trial in Virginia meant 

almost certain death. Governor Wise, 
of Virginia, would have hung him with 
cheerful alacrity, and publicly expressed 
his desire to do so. Douglass, with 
timely warning that extradition papers 
had been issued for his arrest, escaped to 
Canada. He had previously planned a 
second visit to England, and the John 
Brown affair had delayed his departure 
by some days. He sailed from Quebec, 
November 12, 1859. 

After a most uncomfortable winter 
voyage of fourteen days Douglass found 
himself again in England, an object of 
marked interest and in very great de- 
mand as a speaker. Six months he 
spent on the hospitable shores of Great 
Britain, lecturing on John Brown, on 
slavery and other subjects, and renewing 
the friendships of former years. Being 
informed cf the death of his youngest 
daughter, he cut short his visit, which 
he had meant to extend to France, and 
returned to the United States. So rapid 


had been the course of events since his 
departure that the excitement over the 
John Brown raid had subsided. The 
first Lincoln campaign was in active 
progress ; and the whole country quiv- 
ered with vague anticipation of the im- 
pending crisis which was to end the 
conflict of irreconcilable principles, and 
sweep slavery out of the path of civili- 
zation and progress. Douglass plunged 
into the campaign with his accustomed 
zeal, and did what he could to promote 
the triumph of the Eepublican party. 
Lincoln was elected, and in a few short 
months the country found itself in the 
midst of war. God was not dead, and 
slavery was to end in blood. 


Ever mindful of his people and seek- 
ing always to promote their welfare, 
Douglass was one of those who urged, in 
all his addresses at this period, the abo- 
lition of slavery and the arming of the 
negroes as the most effective means of 
crushing the rebellion. In 1862 he de- 
livered a series of lectures in New Eng- 
land under the auspices of the recently 
formed Emancipation League, which 
contended for abolition as a military 

The first or conditional emancipation 
proclamation was issued in September, 
1862 ; and shortly afterward Douglass 
published a pamphlet for circulation in 
Great Britain, entitled The Slave's Appeal 
to Great Britain, in which he urged the 
English people to refuse recognition of 
the independence of the Confederate 
States. He always endeavored in his 
public utterances to remove the doubts 

and fears of those who were tempted to 
leave the negroes in slavery because of 
the difficulty of disposing of them after 
they became free. Douglass, with the 
simple, direct, primitive sense of justice 
that had always marked his mind, took 
the only true ground for the solution of 
the race problems of that or any other 
epoch, — that the situation should be met 
with equal and exact justice, and that 
his people should be allowed to do as 
they pleased with themselves, "subject 
only to the same great laws which apply 
to other men." He was a conspicuous 
figure at the meeting in Tremont Tem- 
ple, Boston, on January 1, 1863, when 
the Emancipation Proclamation, hourly 
expected by an anxious gathering, 
finally flashed over the wires. 

Douglass was among the first to sug- 
gest the employment of colored troops 
in the Union army. In spite of all as- 
sertions to the contrary, he foresaw in 
the war the end of slavery. He per- 

ceived that by the enlistment of colored 
men not only would the Northern arms 
be strengthened, but his people would 
win an opportunity to exercise one of 
the highest rights of freemen, and by 
valor on the field of battle to remove 
some of the stigma that slavery had 
placed upon them. He strove through 
every channel at his command to im- 
press his views upon the country; and 
his efforts helped to swell the current of 
opinion which found expression, after 
several intermediate steps, in the enlist- 
ment of two colored regiments by Gov- 
ernor Andrew, the famous war governor 
of Massachusetts, a State foremost in all 
good works. When Mr. Lincoln had 
granted permission for the recruiting of 
these regiments, Douglass issued through 
his paper a stirring appeal, which was 
copied in the principal journals of the 
Union States, exhorting his people to 
rally to this call, to seize this Opportu- 
nity to strike a blow at slavery and win 

the gratitude of the country and the 
blessings of liberty for themselves and 
their posterity. 

Douglass exerted himself personally in 
procuring enlistments, his two sons, 
Charles and Lewis, being the first in 
New York to enlist ; for the two Massa- 
chusetts regiments were recruited all 
over the North. Lewis H. Douglass, 
sergeant-major in the Fifty-fourth Mas- 
sachusetts, was among the foremost on 
the ramparts at Fort Wagner. Both 
these sons of Douglass survived the war, 
and are now well known and respected 
citizens of Washington, D. C. The Fifty- 
fourth Massachusetts, under the gallant 
but ill-fated Colonel Shaw, won undying 
glory in the conflict; and the heroic 
deeds of the officers and men of this reg- 
iment are fittingly commemorated in the 
noble monument by St. Gaudens, re- 
cently erected on Boston Common, to 
stand as an inspiration of freedom and 
patriotism for the future and as testi- 


mony that a race which for generations 
had been deprived of arms and liberty 
could worthily bear the one and defend 
the other. 

Douglass was instrumental in per- 
suading the government to put colored 
soldiers on an equal footing with white 
soldiers, both as to pay and protection. 
In the course of these efforts he was 
invited to visit President Lincoln. He 
describes this memorable interview in 
detail in his Life and Times. The Presi- 
dent welcomed him with outstretched 
hands, put him at once at his ease, and 
listened patiently and attentively to all 
that he had to say. Douglass main- 
tained that colored soldiers should re- 
ceive the same pay as white soldiers, 
should be protected and exchanged as 
prisoners, and should be rewarded, by 
promotion, for deeds of valor. The 
President suggested some of the diffi- 
culties to be overcome ; but both he and 
Secretary of War Stanton, whom Doug- 

lass also visited, assured him that in 
the end his race should be justly treated. 
Stanton, before the close of the interview 
with him, promised Douglass a commis- 
sion as assistant adjutant to General 
Lorenzo Thomas, then recruiting colored 
troops in the Mississippi Valley. But 
Stanton evidently changed his mind, 
since the commission, somewhat to Doug- 
lass' s chagrin, never came to hand. 

When McClellan had been relieved 
by Grant, and the new leader of the 
Union forces was fighting the stubbornly 
contested campaign of the Wilderness, 
President Lincoln again sent for Doug- 
lass, to confer with him with reference 
to bringing slaves in the rebel States 
within the Union lines, so that in the 
event of premature pea je as many slaves 
as possible might be free. Douglass 
undertook, at the President's suggestion, 
to organize a band of colored scouts to 
go among the negroes and induce them 
to enter the Union lines. The plan was 

never carried out, owing to the rapid 
success of the Union arms ; but the 
interview greatly impressed Douglass 
with the sincerity of the President's con- 
victions against slavery and his desire 
to see the war result in its overthrow. 
What the colored race may have owed 
to the services, in such a quarter, of 
such an advocate as Douglass, brave, 
eloquent, high-principled, and an ex- 
ample to Lincoln of what the enslaved 
race was capable of, can only be im- 
agined. That Lincoln was deeply im- 
pressed by these interviews is a matter 
of history. 

Douglass supported vigorously the 
nomination of Lincoln for a second term, 
and was present at his inauguration. 
And a few days later, while the inspired 
words of the inaugural address, long 
bracketed with the noblest of human 
utterances, were still ringing in his ears, 
he spoke at the meeting held in Eoches- 
ter to mourn the death of the martyred 


President, and made one of his most 
eloquent and moving addresses. It was 
a time that wrung men's hearts, and 
none more than the strong-hearted man's 
whose race had found its liberty through 
him who lay dead at Washington, slain 
by the hand of an assassin whom slavery 
had spawned. 

With the fall of slavery and the 
emancipation of the colored race the 
heroic epoch of Douglass's career may 
be said to have closed. The text upon 
which he so long had preached had been 
expunged from the national bible ; and 
he had been a one-text preacher, a one- 
theme orator. He felt the natural reac- 
tion which comes with relief from high 
mental or physical tension, and won- 
dered, somewhat sadly, what he should 
do with himself, and how he should earn 
a living. The same considerations, in 
varying measure, applied to others of 
the anti-slavery reformers. Some, un- 
able to escape the reforming habit, 
turned their attention to different social 
evils, real or imaginary. Others, suffi- 
ciently supplied with this world's goods 
for their moderate wants, withdrew from 
public life. Douglass was thinking of 
buying a farm and retiring to rural soli- 

tudes, when a new career opened up for 
him in the lyceum lecture field. The 
Xorth was favorably disposed toward 
colored men. They had acquitted them- 
selves well during the war, and had 
shown becoming gratitude to their deliv- 
erers. The once despised abolitionists 
were now popular heroes. Douglass's 
checkered past seemed all the more 
romantic in the light of the brighter 
present, like a novel with a pleasant 
ending ; and those who had hung thrill- 
ingly upon his words when he denounced 
slavery now listened with interest to 
what he had to say upon other topics. 
He spoke sometimes on Woman Suffrage, 
of which he was always a consistent ad- 
vocate. His most popular lecture was 
one on " Self-made Men. " Another on 
" Ethnology/ 7 in which he sought a 
scientific basis for his claim for the 
negro's equality with the white man, 
was not so popular — with white people. 
The wave of enthusiasm which had swept 


the enfranchised slaves into what seemed 
at that time the safe harbor of constitu- 
tional right was not, after all, based on 
abstract doctrines of equality of intellect, 
but on an inspiring sense of justice (long 
dormant under the influence of slavery, 
but thoroughly awakened under the 
moral stress of the war), which conceded 
to every man the right of a voice in his 
own government and the right to an 
equal opportunity in life to develop such 
powers as he possessed, however great 
or small these might be. 

But Douglass's work in direct behalf 
of his race was not yet entirely done. 
In fact, he realized very distinctly the 
vast amount of work that would be 
necessary to lift his people up to the 
level of their enlarged opportunities ; 
and, as may be gathered from some of 
his published utterances, he foresaw that 
the process would be a long one, and 
that their friends might weary some- 
times of waiting, and that there would 

be reactions toward slavery which would 
rob emancipation of much of its value. 
It was the very imminence of such back- 
ward steps, in the shape of various re- 
strictive and oppressive laws promptly 
enacted by the old slave States under 
President Johnson's administration, that 
led Douglass to urge the enfranchisement 
of the freedmen. He maintained that 
in a free country there could be no safe 
or logical middle ground between the 
status of freeman and that of serf. There 
has been much criticism because the 
negro, it is said, acquired the ballot 
prematurely. There seemed imperative 
reasons, besides that of political expedi- 
ency, for putting the ballot in his hands. 
Eecent events have demonstrated that 
this necessity is as great now as then. 
The assumption that negroes — under 
which generalization are included all 
men of color, regardless of that sympathy 
to which kinship at least should entitle 
many of them — are unfit to have a voice 


in government is met by the words of 
Lincoln, which have all the weight of a 
political axiom : "No man can be safely 
trusted to govern other men without 
their consent. " The contention that a 
class who constitute half the population 
of a State shall be entirely unrepresented 
in its councils, because, forsooth, their 
will there expressed may affect the gov- 
ernment of another class of the same 
general population, is as repugnant to 
justice and human rights as was the in- 
stitution of slavery itself. Such a condi- 
tion of affairs has not the melodramatic 
and soul-stirring incidents of chattel 
slavery, but its effects can be as far- 
reaching and as debasing. There has 
been some manifestation of its possible 
consequences in the recent outbreaks of 
lynching and other race oppression in 
the South. The practical disfranchise- 
ment of the colored people in several 
States, and the apparent acquiescence 
by the Supreme Court in the attempted 


annulment, by restrictive and oppressive 
laws, of the war amendments to the Con- 
stitution, have brought a foretaste of 
what might be expected should the spirit 
of the Dred Scott decision become again 
the paramount law of the land. 

On February 7, 1866, Douglass acted 
as chief spokesman of a committee of 
leading colored men of the country, who 
called upon President Johnson to urge 
the importance of enfranchisement. Mr. 
Johnson, true to his Southern instincts, 
was coldly hostile to the proposition, re- 
counted all the arguments against it, and 
refused the committee an opportunity to 
reply. The matter was not left with 
Mr. Johnson, however ; and the commit- 
tee turned its attention to the leading 
Eepublican statesmen, in whom they 
found more impressionable material. 
Under the leadership of Senators Sum- 
ner, Wilson, Wade, and others, the 
matter was fully argued in Congress, the 
Democratic party being in opposition, 

as always in national politics, to any 
measure enlarging the rights or liberties 
of the colored race. 

In September, 1866, Douglass was 
elected a delegate from Eochester to the 
National Loyalists' Convention at Phila- 
delphia, called to consider the momen- 
tous questions of government growing out 
of the war. While he had often attended 
anti-slavery conventions as the repre- 
sentative of a small class of abolitionists, 
his election to represent a large city in 
a national convention was so novel a de- 
parture from established usage as to pro- 
voke surprise and comment all over the 
country. On the way to Philadelphia 
he was waited upon by a committee of 
other delegates, who came to his seat on 
the train and urged upon him the im- 
propriety of his taking a seat as a dele- 
gate. Douglass listened patiently, but 
declined to be moved by their arguments. 
He replied that he had been duly elected 
a delegate from Eochester, and he would 

represent that city in the convention. 
A procession of the members and friends 
of the convention was to take place on 
its opening day. Douglass was solemnly 
warned that, if he walked in the proces- 
sion, he would probably be mobbed. 
But he had been mobbed before, more 
than once, and had lived through it ; 
and he promptly presented himself at 
the place of assembly. His reception by 
his fellow- delegates was not cordial, and 
he seemed condemned to march alone in 
the procession, when Theodore Tilton, 
at that time editor of the Independent, 
paired off with him, and marched by 
his side through the streets of the Quaker 
City. The result was gratifying alike to 
Douglass and the friends of liberty and 
progress. He was cheered enthusiasti- 
cally all along the line of march, and 
became as popular in the convention as 
he had hitherto been neglected. 

A romantic incident of this march was 
a pleasant meeting, on the street, with a 


daughter of Sirs. Lucretia Auld, the mis- 
tress who had treated him kindly during 
his childhood on the Lloyd plantation. 
The Aulds had always taken an interest 
in Douglass's career, — he had, indeed, 
given the family a wide though not 
altogether enviable reputation in his 
books and lectures, — and this good lady 
had followed the procession for miles, 
that she might have the opportunity to 
speak to her grandfather's former slave 
and see him walk in the procession. 

In the convention "the ever-ready 
and imperial Douglass, " as Colonel Hig- 
ginson describes him, spoke in behalf of 
his race. The convention, however, di- 
vided upon the question of negro suf- 
frage, and adjourned without decisive 
action. But under President Grant's 
administration the Fourteenth Amend- 
ment was passed, and by the solemn 
sanction of the Constitution the ballot 
was conferred upon the black men upon 
the same terms as those upon which it 
was enjoyed by the whites. 


It is perhaps fitting, before we take 
leave of Douglass, to give some estimate 
of the remarkable oratory which gave 
him his hold upon the past generation. 
For, while his labors as editor and in 
other directions were of great value to 
the cause of freedom, it is upon his 
genius as an orator that his fame must 
ultimately rest. 

While Douglass's color put him in a 
class by himself among great orators, and 
although his slave past threw around 
him an element of romance that added 
charm to his eloquence, these were mere 
incidental elements of distinction. The 
North was full of fugitive slaves, and 
more than one had passionately pro- 
claimed his wrongs. There were several 
colored orators who stood high in the 
councils of the abolitionists and did good 
service for the cause of humanity. 

Douglass possessed, in large measure, 

the physical equipment most impressive 
in an orator. He was a man of magnifi- 
cent figure, tall, strong, his head crowned 
with a mass of hair which made a strik- 
ing element of his appearance. He had 
deep-set and flashing eyes, a firm, well- 
moulded chin, a countenance somewhat 
severe in repose, but capable of a wide 
range of expression. His voice was rich 
and melodious, and of great carrying 
power. One writer, who knew him in 
the early days of his connection with 
the abolitionists, says of him, in John- 
son's Sketches of Lynn : — 

u He was not then the polished orator 
he has since become, but even at that 
early date he gave promise of the grand 
part he was to play in the conflict which 
was to end in the destruction of the sys- 
tem that had so long cursed his race. . . . 
He was more than six feet in height ; and 
his majestic form, as he rose to speak, 
straight as an arrow, muscular yet lithe 
and graceful, his flashing eye, and more 

than all his voice, that rivalled Webster's 
in its richness and in the depth and so- 
norousness of its cadences, made up such 
an ideal of an orator as the listeners 
never forgot. And they never forgot 
his burning words, his pathos, nor the 
rich play of his humor. " 

The poet William Howitt said of him 
on his departure from England in 1847, 
" He has appeared in this country before 
the most accomplished audiences, who 
were surprised, not only at his talent, but 
at his extraordinary information. " 

In Ireland he was introduced as "the 
black O j Connell, ' ' — a high compliment ; 
for O' Connell was at that time the idol 
of the Irish people. In Scotland they 
called him the "black Douglass/' after 
his prototype in The Lady of the Lake, be- 
cause of his fire and vigor. In Boehes- 
ter he was called the "swarthy Aj ax, " 
from his indignant denunciation and de- 
fiance of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, 
which came like a flash of lightning to 


blast the hopes of the anti-slavery peo- 

Douglass possessed in unusual degree 
the faculty of swaying his audience, 
sometimes against their maturer judg- 
ment. There is something in the argu- 
ment from first principles which, if 
presented with force and eloquence, 
never fails to appeal to those who are 
not blinded by self-interest or deep- 
seated prejudice. Douglass's argument 
was that of the Declaration of Indepen- 
dence, — "that all men are created equal ; 
that they are endowed by their Creator 
with certain inalienable rights ; that 
among these are life, liberty, and the 
pursuit of happiness. That, to secure 
these rights, governments are instituted 
among men, deriving their just powers 
from the consent of the governed." The 
writer may be pardoned for this quota- 
tion ; for there are times when we seem 
to forget that now and here, no less than 
in ancient Eome, u eternal vigilance is 


the price of liberty. J ' Douglass brushed 
aside all sophistries about Constitutional 
guarantees, and vested rights, and in- 
ferior races, and, having postulated the 
right of men to be free, maintained that 
negroes were men, and offered himself 
as a proof of his assertion, — an argu- 
ment that few had the temerity to deny. 
If it were answered that he was only 
half a negro, he would reply that slavery 
made no such distinction, and as a still 
more irrefutable argument would point 
to his friend, Samuel E. Ward, who 
often accompanied him on the platform, 
— an eloquent and effective orator, of 
whom Wendell Phillips said that "he 
was so black that, if he would shut his 
eyes, one could not see him." It was 
difficult for an auditor to avoid assent to 
such arguments, presented with all the 
force and fire of genius, relieved by a 
ready wit, a contagious humor, and a 
tear- compelling power rarely excelled. 
" As a speaker," says one of his con- 


temporaries, "he has few equals. It is 
not declamation, but oratory, power of 
description. He watches the tide of dis- 
cussion, and dashes into it at once with 
all the tact of the forum or the bar. He 
has art, argument, sarcasm, pathos, — all 
that first-rate men show in their master 
efforts. }} 

His readiness was admirably illustrated 
in the running debate with Captain 
Eynders, a ward politician and gambler 
of New York, who led a gang of roughs 
with the intention of breaking up the 
meeting of the American Anti-slavery 
Society in New York City, May 7, 1850. 
The newspapers had announced the pro- 
posed meeting in language calculated to 
excite riot. Eynders packed the meet- 
ing with rowdies, and himself occupied 
a seat on the platform. Some remark 
by Mr. Garrison, the first speaker, pro- 
voked a demonstration of hostility. 
When this was finally quelled by a prom- 
ise to permit one of the Eynders party 


to reply, Mr. Garrison finished his 
speech. He was followed by a prosy in- 
dividual, who branded the negro as 
brother to the monkey. Douglass, per- 
ceiving that the speaker was wearying 
even his own friends, intervened at an 
opportune moment, captured the audi- 
ence by a timely display of wit, and then 
improved the occasion by a long and ef- 
fective speech. When Douglass offered 
himself as a refutation of the last speak- 
er's argument, Eynders replied that 
Douglass was half white. Douglass 
thereupon greeted Eynders as his half- 
brother, and made this expression the 
catchword of his speech. When Eynders 
interrupted from time to time, he was 
silenced with a laugh. He appears to 
have been a somewhat philosophic 
scoundrel, with an appreciation of humor 
that permitted the meeting to proceed to 
an orderly close. Douglass's speech was 
the feature of the evening. "That 
gifted man," said Garrison, in whose 

Life and Times a graphic description of 
this famous meeting is given, u effect- 
ually put to shame his assailants by his 
wit and eloquence. " 

A speech delivered by Douglass at 
Concord, New Hampshire, is thus de- 
scribed by another writer : "He gradu- 
ally let out the outraged humanity that 
was laboring in him, in indignant and 
terrible speech. . . . There was great ora- 
tory in his speech, but more of dignity 
and earnestness than what we call elo- 
quence. He was an insurgent slave, 
taking hold on the rights of speech, and 
charging on his tyrants the bondage of 
his race.' 7 

In Holland's biography of Douglass 
extracts are given from letters of distin- 
guished contemporaries who knew the 
orator. Colonel T. W. Higginson writes 
thus: "I have hardly heard his equal, 
in grasp upon an audience, in dramatic 
presentation, in striking at k the pith of 
an ethical question, and in single illus- 

trations and examples. ' ? Another writes, 
in reference to the impromptu speech 
delivered at the meeting at Eochester 
on the death of Lincoln : "I have heard 
Webster and Clay in their best moments, 
Channing and Beecher in their highest 
inspirations. I never heard truer elo- 
quence. I never saw profounder impres- 

The published speeches of Douglass, 
of which examples may be found scat- 
tered throughout his various autobiog- 
raphies, reveal something of the powers 
thus characterized, though, like other 
printed speeches, they lose by being put 
in type. But one can easily imagine 
their effect upon a sympathetic or re- 
ceptive audience, when delivered with 
flashing eye and deep-toned resonant 
voice by a man whose complexion and 
past history gave him the highest right 
to describe and denounce the iniquities 
of slavery and contend for the rights of a 
race. In later years, when brighter days 

had dawned for his people, and age had 
dimmed the recollection of his sufferings 
and tempered his animosities, he became 
more charitable to his old enemies ; but 
in the vigor of his manhood, with the 
memory of his wrongs and those of his 
race fresh upon him, he possessed that in- 
dispensable quality of the true reformer : 
he went straight to the root of the 
evil, and made no admissions and no 
compromises. Slavery for him was con- 
ceived in greed, born in sin, cradled in 
shame, and worthy of utter and relent- 
less condemnation. He had the quality 
of directness and simplicity. When Col- 
lins would have turned the abolition in- 
fluence to the support of a communistic 
scheme, Douglass opposed it vehemently. 
Slavery was the evil they were fighting, 
and their cause would be rendered still 
more unpopular if they ran after strange 

When Garrison pleaded for the rights 
of man, when Phillips with golden elo- 

quence preached the doctrine of human- 
ity and progress, men approved and 
applauded. When Parker painted the 
moral baseness of the times, men acqui- 
esced shamefacedly. When Channing 
preached the gospel of love, they wished 
the dream might become a reality. But, 
when Douglass told the story of his 
wrongs and those of his brethren in 
bondage, they felt that here indeed was 
slavery embodied, here was an argu- 
ment for freedom that could not be gain- 
said, that the race that could produce 
in slavery such a man as Frederick 
Douglass must surely be worthy of free- 

What Douglass's platform utterances 
in later years lacked of the vehemence 
and fire of his earlier speeches, they 
made up in wisdom and mature judg- 
ment. There is a note of exultation in 
his speeches just after the war. Jehovah 
had triumphed, his people were free. 
He had seen the Eed Sea of blood open 


and let them, pass, and engulf the enemy 
who pursued them. 

Among the most noteworthy of Doug- 
lass's later addresses were the oration at 
the unveiling of the Freedmen's Monu- 
ment to Abraham Lincoln in Washing- 
ton in 1876, which may be found in his 
Life and Times; the address on Decora- 
tion Day, New York, 1878 ; his eulogy 
on Wendell Phillips, printed in Austin's 
Life and Times of Wendell Phillips; and 
the speech on the death of Garrison, 
June, 1879. He lectured in the Parker 
Fraternity Course in Boston, delivered 
numerous addresses to gatherings of col- 
ored men, spoke at public dinners and 
woman suffrage meetings, and retained 
his hold upon the interest of the public 
down to the very day of his death. 


With the full enfranchisement of his 
people, Douglass entered upon what may 
be called the third epoch of his career, 
that of fruition. Not every worthy life 
receives its reward in this world; but 
Douglass, having fought the good fight, 
was now singled out, by virtue of his 
prominence, for various honors and 
emoluments at the hands of the public. 
He was urged by many friends to take 
up his residence in some Southern dis- 
trict and run for Congress ; but from 
modesty or some doubt of his fitness — 
which one would think he need not have 
felt — and the consideration that his 
people needed an advocate at the North 
to keep alive there the friendship and 
zeal for liberty that had accomplished so 
much for his race, he did not adopt the 

In 1860 Douglass moved to Washing- 
ton, and began the publication of the 


New National Era, a weekly paper de- 
voted to the interests of the colored race. 
The venture did not receive the support 
hoped for; and the paper was turned 
over to Douglass's two sons, Lewis and 
Frederick, and was finally abandoned, 
Douglass having sunk about ten thousand 
dollars in the enterprise. Later news- 
papers for circulation among the colored 
people have proved more successful ; 
and it ought to be a matter of interest 
that the race which thirty years ago 
could not support one publication, ed- 
ited by its most prominent man, now 
maintains several hundred newspapers 
which make their appearance regularly. 
In 1871 Douglass was elected presi- 
dent of the Freedman's Bank. This ill- 
starred venture was then apparently in 
the full tide of prosperity, and promised 
to be a great lever in the uplifting of the 
submerged race. Douglass, soon after 
his election as president, discovered the 
insolvency of the institution, and in- 

sisted that it be closed up. The negro 
was in the hands of his friends, and was 
destined to suffer for their mistakes as 
well as his own. 

Other honors that fell to Douglass were 
less empty than the presidency of a 
bankrupt bank. In 1870 he was ap- 
pointed by President Grant a member 
of the Santo Domingo Commission, the 
object of which was to arrange terms for 
the annexation of the mulatto republic 
to the Union. Some of the best friends 
of the colored race, among them Senator 
Sumner, opposed this step ; but Doug- 
lass maintained that to receive Santo 
Domingo as a State would add to its 
strength and importance. The scheme 
ultimately fell through, whether for the 
good or ill of Santo Domingo can best 
be judged when the results of more re- 
cent annexation schemes become appar- 
ent. Douglass went to Santo Domingo 
on an American man- of- war, in the 
company of three other commissioners. 

In his Life and Times he draws a pleas- 
ing contrast between some of his earlier 
experiences in travelling, and the terms 
of cordial intimacy upon which, as the 
representative of a nation which a few 
years before had denied him a passport, 
he was now received in the company of 
able and distinguished gentlemen. 

On his return to the United States 
Douglass received from President Grant 
an appointment as member of the legis- 
lative council, or upper house of the 
legislature, of the District of Columbia, 
where he served for a short time, until 
other engagements demanded his resig- 
nation, his son being appointed to fill 
out his term. To this appointment 
Douglass owed the title of " Honorable, " 
subsequently applied to him. 

In 1872 Douglass presided over and 
addressed a convention of colored men 
at New Orleans, and urged them to 
support President Grant for renomina- 
tion. He was elected a presidential 


elector for New York, and on the meet- 
ing of the electoral college in Albany, 
after Grant's triumphant re-election, 
received a further mark of confidence 
and esteem in the appointment at the 
hands of his fellow-electors to carry the 
sealed vote to Washington. Douglass 
sought no personal reward for his ser- 
vices in this campaign, but to his in- 
fluence was due the appointment of 
several of his friends to higher positions 
than had ever theretofore been held in 
this country by colored men. 

When E. B. Hayes was nominated 
for President, Douglass again took the 
stump, and received as a reward the 
honorable and lucrative office of Mar- 
shal of the United States for the District 
of Columbia. This appointment was 
not agreeable to the white people of the 
District, whose sympathies were largely 
pro-slavery ; and an effort was made 
to have its confirmation defeated in 
the Senate. The appointment was con- 

firmed, however ; and Douglass served 
his term of four years, in spite of numer- 
ous efforts to bring about his removal. 

In 1879 the hard conditions under 
which the negroes in the South were 
compelled to live led to a movement 
to promote an exodus of the colored 
people to the North and West, in the 
search for better opportunities. The 
white people of the South, alarmed at 
the prospect of losing their labor, were 
glad to welcome Douglass when he went 
among them to oppose this movement, 
which he at that time considered detri- 
mental to the true interests of the col- 
ored population. 

Under the Garfield administration 
Douglass was appointed in May, 1881, 
recorder of deeds for the District of 
Columbia. He held this very lucrative 
office through the terms of Presidents 
Garfield and Arthur and until removed 
by President Cleveland in 1886, having 
served nearly a year after Cleveland's 

inauguration. In 1889 lie was appointed 
by President Harrison as minister resi- 
dent and consul-general to the Eepublic 
of Hayti, in which capacity he acted 
until 1891, when he resigned and re- 
turned permanently to Washington. 
The writer has heard him speak with 
enthusiasm of the substantial progress 
made by the Haytians in the arts of 
government and civilization, and with 
indignation of what he considered 
slanders against the island, due to igno- 
rance or prejudice. When it was sug- 
gested to Douglass that the Haytians 
were given to revolution as a mode of 
expressing disapproval of their rulers, 
he replied that a four years' rebellion 
had been fought and two Presidents as- 
sassinated in the United States during a 
comparatively peaceful political period 
in Hayti. His last official connection 
with the Black Eepublic was at the 
World's Columbian Exposition at Chi- 
cago in 1893, where he acted as agent in 

charge of the Haytian Building and 
the very creditable exhibit therein con- 
tained. His stately figure, which age 
had not bowed, his strong dark face, 
and his head of thick white hair made 
him one of the conspicuous features of 
the Exposition ; and many a visitor took 
advantage of the occasion to recall old 
acquaintance made in the stirring anti- 
slavery days. 

In 1878 he revisited the Lloyd planta- 
tion in Maryland, where he had spent 
part of his youth, and an affecting meet- 
ing took place between him and Thomas 
Auld, whom he had once called master. 
Once in former years he had been sought 
out by the good lady who in his child- 
hood had taught him to read. No- 
where more than in his own accounts 
of these meetings does the essentially 
affectionate and forgiving character of 
Douglass and his race become apparent, 
and one cannot refrain from thinking 
that a different state of affairs might 

prevail in the Southern States if other 
methods than those at present in vogue 
were used to regulate the relations be- 
tween the two races and their various 
admixtures that make up the Southern 

In June, 1879, a bronze bust of Doug- 
lass was erected in Sibley Hall of Eoch- 
ester University as a tribute to one 
who had shed lustre on the city. In 
1882 occurred the death of Douglass's 
first wife, whom he had married in New 
York immediately after his escape from 
slavery, and who had been his faithful 
companion through so many years of 
stress and struggle. In the same year 
his Life and Times was published. In 
1884 he married Miss Helen Pitts, a 
white woman of culture and refinement. 
There was some criticism of this step by 
white people who did not approve of the 
admixture of the races, and by colored 
persons who thought their leader had 
slighted his own people when he over- 


looked the many worthy and accom- 
plished women among them. But Doug- 
lass, to the extent that he noticed these 
strictures at all, declared that he had de- 
voted his life to breaking down the color 
line, and that he did not know any more 
effectual way to accomplish it ; that he 
was white by half his blood, and, as he 
had given most of his life to his mother's 
race, he claimed the right to dispose of 
the remnant as he saw fit. 

The latter years of his life were spent 
at his beautiful home known as Cedar 
Hill, on Anacostia Heights, near Wash- 
ton, amid all 

"that which should accompany old 
As honor, love, obedience, troops of 
friends. 77 

He possessed strong and attractive so- 
cial qualities, and his home formed a 
Mecca for the advanced and aspiring of 
his race. He was a skilful violinist, and 
derived great pleasure from the valuable 

instrument lie possessed. A wholesome 
atmosphere always surrounded him. He 
had never used tobacco or strong liquors, 
and was clean of speech and pure in life. 

He died at his home in Washington, 
February 20, 1895. He had been per- 
fectly well during the day, and was sup- 
posed to be in excellent health. He had 
attended both the forenoon and after- 
noon sessions of the Women's National 
Council, then in session at Washington, 
and had been a conspicuous figure in the 
audience. On his return home, while 
speaking to his wife in the hallway of 
his house, he suddenly fell, and before 
assistance could be given he had passed 

His death brought forth many expres- 
sions from the press of the land, reflect- 
ing the high esteem in which he had 
been held by the public for a generation. 
In various cities meetings were held, at 
which resolutions of sorrow and appre- 
ciation were passed, and delegations ap- 

pointed to attend his funeral. In the 
United States Senate a resolution was 
offered reciting that in the person of the 
late Frederick Douglass death had borne 
away a most illustrious citizen, and per- 
mitting the body to lie in state in the 
rotunda of the Capitol on Sunday. The 
immediate consideration of the resolution 
was asked for. Mr. Gorman, of Mary- 
land, the State which Douglass honored 
by his birth, objected ; and the resolu- 
tion went over. 

Douglass's funeral took place on Feb- 
ruary 25, 1895, at the Metropolitan 
African Methodist Episcopal Church in 
Washington, and was the occasion of a 
greater outpouring of colored people 
than had taken place in Washington 
since the unveiling of the Lincoln eman- 
cipation statue in 1878. The body was 
taken from Cedar Hill to the church at 
half-past nine in the morning ; and from 
that hour until noon thousands of per- 
sons, including many white people, 

passed in double file through the build- 
ing and viewed the body, which was in 
charge of a guard of honor composed of 
members of a colored camp of the Sons 
of Veterans. The church was crowded 
when the services began, and several 
thousands could not obtain admittance. 
Delegations, one of them a hundred 
strong, were present from a dozen cities. 
Among the numerous floral tributes was 
a magnificent shield of roses, orchids, 
and palms, sent by the Haytian govern- 
ment through its minister. Another 
tribute was from the son of his old mas- 
ter. Among the friends of the deceased 
present were Senators Sherman and 
Hoar, Justice Harlan of the Supreme 
Court, Miss Susan B. Anthony, and Miss 
May Wright Sewall, president of the 
Women's National Council. The tem- 
porary pall-bearers were ex-Senator 
B. K. Bruce and other prominent col- 
ored men of Washington. The sermon 
was preached by Eev. J. G. Jenifer. 

John E. Hutchinson, the last of the 
famous Hutchinson family of abolition 
singers, who with his sister accompanied 
Douglass on his first voyage to England, 
sang two requiem solos, and told some 
touching stories of their old-time friend- 
ship. The remains were removed to 
Douglass's former home in Eochester, 
where he was buried with unusual pub- 
lic honors. 

In November, 1894, a movement was 
begun in Eochester, under the leader- 
ship of J. W. Thompson, with a view to 
erect a monument in memory of the 
colored soldiers and sailors who had 
fallen during the Civil War. This pro- 
ject had the hearty support and assist- 
ance of Douglass ; and upon his death 
the plan was changed, and a monument 
to Douglass himself decided upon. A 
contribution of one thousand dollars 
from the Haytian government and an 
appropriation of three thousand dollars 
from the State of New York assured the 

success of the plan. September 15, 
1898, was the date set for the unveiling 
of the monument ; but, owing to delay 
in the delivery of the statue, only a part 
of the contemplated exercises took place. 
The monument, complete with the ex- 
ception of the statue which was to sur- 
mount it, was formally turned over to 
the city, the presentation speech being 
made by Charles P. Lee of Eochester. 
A solo and chorus composed for the 
occasion were sung, an original poem 
read by T. Thomas Fortune, and ad- 
dresses delivered by John C. Dancy and 
John H. Smyth. Joseph H. Douglass, 
a talented grandson of the orator, played 
a violin solo, and Miss Susan B. An- 
thony recalled some reminiscences of 
Douglass in the early anti-slavery days. 
In June, 1899, the bronze statue of 
Douglass, by Sidney "W. Edwards, was 
installed with impressive ceremonies. 
The movement thus to perpetuate the 
memory of Douglass had taken rise 


among a little band of men of his own 
race, but the whole people of Eochester 
claimed the right to participate in doing 
honor to their distinguished fellow-citi- 
zen. The city assumed a holiday aspect. 
A parade of military and civic societies 
was held, and an appropriate programme 
rendered at the unveiling of the monu- 
ment. Governor Eoosevelt of New 
York delivered an address ; and the oc- 
casion took a memorable place in the 
annals of Eochester, of which city Doug- 
lass had said, "I shall always feel more 
at home there than anywhere else in this 
country. " 

In March, 1895, a few weeks after the 
death of Douglass, Theodore Tilton, his 
personal friend for many years, pub- 
lished in Paris, of which city he was 
then a resident, a volume of Sonnets to the 
Memory of Frederick Douglass, from which 
the following lines are quoted as the es- 
timate of a contemporary and a fitting 
epilogue to this brief sketch of so long 
and full a life : — 


" I knew the noblest giants of my day, 
And he was of them — strong amid 

the strong : 
But gentle too : for though he suf- 
fered wrong. 
Yet the wrong- doer never heard him 

"Thee also do I hate.' . . . 

" A lover's lay — 
No dirge — no doleful requiem 

song — 
Is what I owe him ; for I loved him 
As dearly as a younger brother may. 

Proud is the happy grief with which I 
For, O my Country ! in the paths 
of men 
There never walked a grander 
man than he ! 
He was a peer of princes — yea, a 
king ! 
Crowned in the shambles and the 
prison-pen ! 
The noblest Slave that ever God 
set free I" 


The only original sources of informa- 
tion concerning the early life of Fred- 
erick Douglass are the three autobiog- 
raphies published by him at various 
times; and the present writer, like all 
others who have written of Mr. Doug- 
lass, has had to depend upon this per- 
sonal record for the incidents of Mr. 
Douglass's life in slavery. As to the 
second period of his life, his public 
career as anti-slavery orator and agi- 
tator, the sources of information are more 
numerous and varied. The biographies 
of noted abolitionists whose lives ran 
from time to time in parallel lines with 
his make very full reference to Doug- 
lass's services in their common cause, 
the one giving the greatest detail being 
the very complete and admirable Life 
and Times of William Lloyd Garrison, 
by his sons, which is in effect an ex- 
haustive history of the Garrisonian move- 
ment for abolition. 


The files of the Liberator, Mr. Gar- 
rison's paper, which can be found in a 
number of the principal public libraries 
of the country, constitute a vast store- 
house of information concerning the 
labors of the American Anti-slavery 
Society, with which Douglass was identi- 
fied from 1843 to 1847, the latter being 
the year in which he gave up his em- 
ployment as agent of the society and 
established his paper at Eochester. 
Many letters from Mr. Douglass's pen 
appeared in the Liberator during this 

Mr. Douglass's own memoirs are em- 
braced in three separate volumes, pub- 
lished at wide intervals, each succeeding 
volume being a revision of the preceding 
work, with various additions and omis- 

I. Narrative of Frederick Doug- 
lass. Written by himself. (Boston, 
1845 : The American Anti-slavery So- 


ciety. ) Numerous editions of this book 
were printed, and translations published 
in Germany and in Prance. 

II. My Bondage and my Freedom. 
(New York and Auburn, 1855 : Miller, 
Orton & Mulligan.) This second of 
Mr. Douglass's autobiographies has a 
well- written and appreciative introduc- 
tion by James M'Cune Smith and an 
appendix containing extracts from Mr. 
Douglass's speeches on slavery. 

III. Eecollections of the Anti- 
slayeky Conflict. By Samuel J. 
May. (Boston, 1869 : Fields, Osgood 
& Co.) Collected papers by a veteran 
abolitionist ; contains an appreciative 
sketch of Douglass. 

IV. History of the Eise and Fall 
of the Slave Power in America. 
By Henry Wilson. 3 vols. (Boston, 
1872: James E. Osgood & Co.) The 
author presents an admirable summary 
of the life and mission of Mr. Douglass. 


V. William Lloyd Garrison and 
his Times. By Oliver Johnson. 
(Boston, 1881 : Houghton, Mifflin & 
Co.) One of the best works on the 
anti-slavery agitation, by one of its 
most able, active and courageous pro- 

VI. Century Magazine, November, 1881, 
"My Escape from Slavery." By Fred- 
erick Douglass. 

VII. Life and Times of Frederick 
Douglass. Written by himself. (Hart- 
ford, 1882 : Park Publishing Company. ) 

VIII. History of the Negro Eace 
in America. By George W. Williams. 
2 vols. (New York, 1883 : G. P. Put- 
nam's Sons.) This exhaustive and 
scholarly work contains an estimate of 
Douglass's career by an Afro- American 

IX. The Life and Times of Wendell 
Phillips. By George Lowell Austin. 


(Boston, 1888: Lee & Shepard.) Con- 
taining a eulogy on Wendell Phillips 
by Mr. Douglass. 

X. Life and Times of William 
Lloyd Garrison. By his children. 
4 vols. (New York, 1889 : The Century 
Company. London : T. Fisher TInwin. ) 
Here are many details of the public 
services of Mr. Douglass, — his relations 
to the Garrisonian abolitionists, his po- 
litical views, his oratory, etc. 

XL The Cosmopolitan, August, 1889. 
c c Eeminiscences. ? ? By Frederick Doug- 
lass. In "The Great Agitation Series. " 

XII. Frederick Douglass, the Col- 
ored Orator. By Frederick May 
Holland. (Xew York, 1891: Funk & 
Wagnalls. ) This volume is one of the 
series of u American Beforniers," and 
with the exception of his own books is 
the only comprehensive life of Douglass 
so far published. It contains selections 


from many of his best speeches and a 
full list of his numerous publications. 

XIII. Our Day, August, 1894. "Fred 
erick Douglass as Oi 
By W. L. Garrison. 

erick Douglass as Orator and Beformer." 

XIV. The Underground Bailroad. 
By William H. Siebert. With an intro- 
duction by Albert Bushnell Hart. (New 
York, 1898 : The Macmillan Company. ) 
Contains many references to Mr. Doug- 
lass's services in aiding the escape of 
fugitive slaves. 


M. A. DeWOLFE HOWE, Editor. 

The aim of this series is to furnish brief, read- 
able, and authentic accounts of the lives of those 
Americans whose personalities have impressed 
themselves most deeply on the character and 
history of their country. On account of the 
length of the more formal lives, often running 
into large volumes, the average busy man and 
woman have not the time or hardly the inclina- 
tion to acquaint themselves with American bi- 
ography. In the present series everything that 
such a reader would ordinarily care to know is 
given by writers of special competence, who 
possess in full measure the best contemporary 
point of view. Each volume is equipped with 
a frontispiece portrait, a calendar of important 
dates, and a brief bibliography for further read- 
ing. Finally, the volumes are printed in a form 
convenient for reading and for carrying handily 
in the pocket. 



Paternoster House, Charing Cross Road, London 



The following volumes are the first issued: — 

John Brown, by Joseph Edgar Chamberlin. 
Phillips Brooks, by the Editor. 
Aaron Burr, by Henry Childs Merwin. 
Frederick Douglass, by Charles W. Chesnutt. 
David Glasgow Farragut, by James Barnes. 
Nathaniel Hawthorne, by Mrs. James T. Fields. 
Robert E. Lee, by W. P. Trent. 
James Russell Lowell, by Edward Everett Hale, Jr. 
Thomas Paine, by Ellery Sedgwick. 
Daniel Webster, by Norman Hapgood. 

The following are among those in preparation: — 

John James Audubon, by John Burroughs. 
Edwin Booth, by Charles Townsend Copeland. 

James Fenimore Cooper, by W. B. Shubrick Clymer. 

Benjamin Franklin, by Lindsay Swift. 
Sam Houston, by Sarah Barnwell Elliott.